My First Time

I could feel the sweat trickling down my back and thighs. My skin prickled with excitement. My heart was pounding. Adrenaline and endorphins were pumping through my veins. My muscles ached with strain. I hurt all over, but it was a comforting hurt. My body screamed for me to stop, but my mind craved more. My lungs burned in exhaustion. I was a bit light headed. My mind was swimming. All I could keep thinking as I looked around, was that I wanted this moment to last forever.

Wait a minute. I know what your thinking… you, dirty dogs you. NOT THAT FIRST TIME! I am talking about my first real hike. Now get your mind out of the gutter and let’s start from the beginning.

It was Sunday morning. I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. My friend Nicole called me to invite me to go hiking with her. “Uggggh!” I groaned. I was so hung over. I told her this, and she gleefully replied, “ Well, hiking is the best hangover cure!” I rolled my eyes, trying to think of any excuse possible to get out of it, then caved. She had only asked me a thousand times before to go hiking with her. I guess today will be the day.

I hung up the phone and rolled over out of bed miserably. The stale smell of cigarettes still lingered on my hands, clothes, and in my nose. I got up, went to the window and refreshed the musty smell with new, fresh cigarette smell. What happened last night? What did I do? Who did I do? Was I at Hula? Buckleys? Kells? Maybe all of them? Who knew? The night was over, and my primary goal was to figure out how to come back from the dead in less than 30 minutes when Nicole would be picking me up to torture me.
I finished my cigarette and went over to the stove. I began chomping on a slice of cold pizza from Pagliacci’s that I had left out last night. My head was pounding. The night’s memories still a blur. I jumped in the shower, changed into some jean shorts and a tank top. The summer season in Seattle was very sunny and warm. I grabbed the only thing I had to use as a backpack. I didn’t have any hiking shoes. So, I put on the only sneakers I had besides my workout shoes. (I didn’t want to ruin my running shoes on the trail. I was so broke.) The sneakers I wore were knock-off Converse/Chuck Taylors. Not much for foot support, but they would do. (Later, I regretted that choice and was glad that I brought my running shoes just in case.)
Nicole pulled up to the front of the building. I hopped in. We began telling each other of our latest life stories. Her, with her on and off again guy. Me, with my drama, filled, slutty bar scene nights. She listened empathetically trying not to show her well-justified concern and worry for me. Her eyes gave it away though.

We got to the trail head. “Rattle Snake ridge,” it said on the sign. “Are you ready?” she asked me. My head was pounding. My stomach was lurching with gut rot. I wanted another cigarette. I pondered all these feelings, looked at her, smiled, and reluctantly said, “Sure.”

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We started walking. The trail was soft. It felt as if we were walking on compressed mulch. There were gnarled roots that poked out of the ground now and then. I quickly realized that you had to watch your step or one of those guys would pull you right onto your face, as I tripped over a small one. “This is an easy hike right? “ I asked her. “ Oh yeah, girl! I figured I’d break you in on an easy one with a nice view.” She chirped delightfully.
Well, it didn’t feel easy to me. My calves were burning. My lungs were burning. My fairy/vampire skin was burning. Everything was burning. This hiking thing was not fun! Why did I let her talk me into this! What was I thinking!? Could I just turn around and go back down and wait for her there? Maybe she wouldn’t be mad? She knows I am not a super fit wilderness girl. As I was debating these thoughts of chickening out and quitting, I started to watch my friend as she hiked.

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She was petite and yet so fast. It was like watching a mountain goat mixed with a gazelle prance up a hillside! It was infuriating! Each step she took with ease and grace, talking about this and that, with no hint of being out of breath. She even rested on a rock every five to ten minutes or so to let me catch up to her. Her defined muscular legs made me cringe with self-loathing. With each step I took and each moment I watched her, I began to hate her. Screw you Nicole and your mountain goat legs. Screw you and your healthy lungs! Screw you and your energy on a Sunday morning! Screw you and your mom and your friends and everything about you! UUUUUGGGHH!!!! As I was screaming these hateful words in my mind, we reached the top.
I could feel the sweat trickling down my back and thighs. My skin prickled with excitement. My heart was pounding. Adrenaline and endorphins were pumping through my veins. My muscles ached with strain. I hurt all over, but it was a comforting hurt. My body screamed for me to stop, but my mind craved more. My lungs burned in exhaustion. I was a bit light headed. My mind was swimming. All I could keep thinking as I looked around, was that I wanted this moment to last forever.

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The view was overwhelming. Everything in my mind stopped. I just stared, open-mouthed at the breathtaking site in front of me. Was this real? All of my problems and complaints were gone. It was so humbling. I felt a wave of gratitude and light envelop me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I stared at the rolling hills of the distant landscape. A magical mist was flowing around the treetops. The air! It was so fresh! It was like walking into a restaurant sized freezer filled with pine and dirt.

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It was ecstasy. What was I doing all of these years!? Why did I allow myself to miss out on such beauty in this world!? Well, I know why. I was too busy trying to self-medicate with guys, sex, drugs, alcohol, food, anything but what my soul needed. Of all the times I tried to self-medicate with these things, I just felt worse in the end. It was the first time I did something and felt better in the end. Genuinely better. This time the haunting memories washed away. The bad decisions melted. The shame and self-loathing all disappeared the moment I sat on that ridge. I was reborn. No, I was in love. Or was I addicted to something new? I didn’t know and didn’t care. All I knew was that I felt amazing and couldn’t stop smiling.

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Over the next few years, I slowly began to hike more and more, building more muscle and acquiring more gear. It was hard because I didn’t have a vehicle when I lived in Seattle. Luckily, the friend that I had violently attacked in my head that day on my first hike became my new hiking buddy and my new hero. She inspired me. She pushed me in so many new ways. The hatred and envy I had for her mountain goat/gazelle-like movements became a challenge and a goal for myself. I will forever be grateful for her persistence that Sunday morning. If she hadn’t nagged me as she did, I would never have changed. My crazy Saturday nights filled with super high heels and copious amounts of alcohol slowly transformed over time. The 4 am walks of shame became 10 pm, in bed, with the lights out kind of nights. The foggy mornings of “where am I ?” and “ what happened last night?”, turned into jump out of bed at the crack of dawn, coffee, protein, and “where am I hiking?” kind of mornings.
Nicole changed my life. Hiking changed my life. Every time I get on a trail and hear the crunch of the tiny rocks below my feet or the soft thudding of my boots on the dirt, I smile. Every time my lungs burn from the exertion, I feel alive. Every time I want to quit yet push on, I heal in ways I never knew I could. Every time I see the Spanish moss, the hundred-year-old tree trunks, the pine, the wildflowers, the vast and never ending horizon on top of a mountain, my heart melts. Every time I reach the top of a hill or an overlook, I let the strong wind, filled with the whispers of wisdom from lives passed wash over me and blow off every negative emotion of sadness, darkness, and doubt. I fall in love each time. Love that will forever strengthen me, comfort me and impress me. It never judges and never leaves. It only took one time. You never forget your first. It steals your heart, and it most definitely stole mine.

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“ I was always here waiting for you.” The mighty mountain whispered through the trees. “ I was just waiting for you to come see me. I am always waiting for you to come back to me when you leave. One day, you will become a part of me.” – T.J.H

Sending you love and light,

Wild Antevasin

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