A day hike is NOT 12 miles

The workings and communication of any family occur for the most part in their own little system. It’s like a smaller version of what happens on regional scales- Northern US has its own culture and language from Southern US, and England is altogether different. And though we can all communicate, there are some things that are inherent in each that just don’t translate to outsiders. It’s kind of like a mini-tribe, and if you are an outsider to the tribe you may miss the subtle shades of communication that occur. This is precisely what happens to my wife on a regular basis, particularly in regards to my dad.

One of those things that an outsider to my family wouldn’t know is how my dad communicates. I could (and probably will) write and entire blog post on just this alone, but the most important feature of dad’s communication is his ability to minimize – scratch that- spectacular ability to minimize.

It is important to note here that, as I write this, my wife is training for a marathon. Also, you should know that my dad is addicted to exercise, especially endurance exercise. If you have ever been around two people who exercise then you’ve probably experienced that weird synergy that occurs, ultimately making each person more exercise-freaky than they would’ve been on their own. And, if you aren’t careful, you could get caught between the two and suddenly find yourself in a world of hurt.

My dad has always driven me to keep in shape, and in large part is responsible for my current dedication to the gym. However, I have been duped by his minimizing ability too many times in the past and I am acutely aware of it in all of our interactions. The stand out event was when I was about 12 years old and he asked me and my brother if we wanted to go on a mountain bike ride. I thought “Yeah, that sounds okay, even though I’d rather be skateboarding” and I went along with it. Any normal person would expect a physically challenging ride, not too long or too difficult (given that I was a beginner), and mostly fun. Well, after an entire day of riding I was basically dying on that bike. I realized then that, when it comes to exercise (especially endurance exercise), my dad minimizes. “Oh yeah, it wont’ be too hard of a ride . . . it’s sort of ‘challenging’ . . . you’ll have fun”- I began to see these phrases as code for “This is gonna be hard as hell, it’s going to nearly max out your difficulty level, and its gonna SUCK.” This played out a few more times (because I am a slow learner) in a variety of settings- helping roof a house, helping move anything, doing car repairs- but the exercise scenarios were always the worst.

Now that you have all the details, let’s get down to what went wrong.

A conversation between my wife and my dad ensued. It sounded something like this-

W-“I want to go on a day hike”

D-“That would be fun, let’s set one up for when we’re at the cabin” (My dad has a cabin in TN)

W-“Yeah, it would be good cross training for my marathon. Just don’t make it too long. Maybe 5 miles or so, for about 4 hours max, maybe less.”

D-“Sounds good, I know just the place.”

Me- (in my head)-“NOOOOOOO!!”

For you to understand my reaction, I will translate the conversation into what was really said-

W-“I want to go on a day hike”

D-“That would be a great way to torture you for a day, let’s set one up for when we’re at the cabin” (My dad has a cabin in TN)

W-“Yeah, it would be good cross training for my marathon. Just don’t make it too long. Maybe 5 miles or so, for about 4 hours max, maybe less.”

D-“I’m acknowledging what you just said but I am going to completely disregard it and plan a hike from hell, on the least traveled trail through the Cohutta wilderness, subsequently using my minimizing skills to make it sound like no biggie.”

Me- (in my head)-“NOOOOOOOO!!!”

My wife had 1) never been on a day hike and 2) had no idea what she was in for on a regular hike through the Cohutta wilderness, much less a dad-style hike.

For the next few weeks I kept trying to warn my wife, telling her about my dad’s ability to minimize, that this was going to be brutal so she should prepare mentally, etc. My role in the family had been that of the “nerdy wimp”, and my pleas had that kind of ring to them. Therefore she brushed it off mostly, but I think that my insistence got her thinking somewhat.

Then the day of the hike came. We all packed a lunch, packed our Camelbaks (which we almost didn’t pack at the advice of my dad- thank God we did), and left with step-mom in tow (also an exercise freak). The first clue that it was serious was the 20 min drive on a dirt road, up a mountain, just to get to the trail. The second clue was that people were camping at the mouth of the trail, a signal to me that they needed a rest before/after completing this thing. The third was how overgrown the trail was (the trail was never visible for more than about 20 feet in font of you).

And so we began, starting immediately on an uphill. My wife was happy, talking, and spirits high. I was trying not to talk to conserve my energy. Wise move.

Me conserving energy by not smiling.

Fast forward 2.5 hours. About 5 miles in. Now my wife and I are wondering if our quads can take any more after the nearly all uphill hike. Finally, as we wade through the briars and branches we crest over the main peak and rest/eat lunch.

Fast forward 3 hours. 11 miles in. I, exhausted, have moved into a Zen-like meditative state, simply breathing and moving my legs, allowing the pain to wash over me in waves. My wife (who is training for a marathon, mind you) is in tears. Also, that entirely uphill hike had now been an entirely downhill hike since lunch. Sounds nice, right? About as nice as shin splints, jammed toes, and now completely fatigued quads.

At a grand total of 6 hours and 12 mountainous miles we finally made it back to the car. But the torture didn’t there. My hip flexors were so sore I had to lift my legs with my arms to get up the cabin stairs. Meanwhile my wife lived the next 24 hours within arms length of NSAIDs.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad. There were some spectacular views (which are currently running in the header) and we could say we “accomplished something”. I got to find out what a black bear smells like (not good, not good at all). I also experienced that feeling that only arises when you are deep in the woods, miles from any roads, and miles from any people (we only saw two all day). Plus, it was another chance to prove I am not just some “nerdy wimp”.

But I mean, c’mon . . . a day hike is NOT 12 miles.



One thought on “A day hike is NOT 12 miles

  1. You’re right…after almost 10 years, I’m still learning all the subtleties of your dad’s conversation style. This is kind of like when I first told him that I was going to train for a marathon and he thought I needed to run 15 miles everyday.

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