At this stage in our journey the teacher-hiker was beginning to feel more uncertain about the trail, and as I was "walking point" she asked me a number of times if I was sure where I was going and if we were still on the trail.
While walking we had shared stories about our respective workouts at the local recreation center so I knew that she was in decent shape.
I was therefore initially surprised when this very nice lady began asking questions about the trail.
She made an observation about how sure-footed I looked and I started thinking back to when I first started training for and then actually participating in adventure racing.
Although this city-girl did not know anything about the outdoors at the time, I remember going on one of those womens-outdoor-skills-camping-deals before I really started training in earnest.
To test out the waters and see just how comfortable I actually felt doing "outdoor stuff".
After that long weekend I began training in earnest, and at 40 years old began to realize that I had been missing out on something really special.
A whole different world that I had (up until that time) known nothing about.
I guess I am sure footed after spending so much time on trails over the last 11 years.............
Over the past almost three hours we had transitioned from wide open BLM trails, to wide open and lush grassy trails, to narrow and steep dirt switchbacks.
The trail was continuing to narrow and get even more rocky.
We were close.............
This is where the trail started to get even more interesting, because this is where my teacher-trail mate told us that she was going to stop.
Both the guy and I were surprised that after getting so close to the top she would want to turn back, and we asked her why.
She was afraid of heights.
Why did she want to climb Heart Mountain if she was afraid of heights I wondered.
Because she wanted to see how far she could get.
OK - that was enough information.
All three of us brainstormed ways to get her through this next and last section of trail and up to the top of the mountain.
Follow my line, don't look down, just look at my feet, stay in between us and we'll go slow, give me your water bottle so you've got both hands free, here - give me your hand.
None of us had ever met before this hike but somehow around 7500 feet or so, on the side of some random mountain we all became friends for the duration, and worked cooperatively (for not only the rest of the climb up but also the painful climb back down) to make sure that we all accomplished our goals..............
At some points there were trees, at others there were barbed wire fences, and at still others there were beam barriers.
All to help prevent accidental falls down into steep drop-offs..........
Nervous observations about bear caves as we passed by.............
The final climb to the summit............
There were maybe 10 people at the top of Heart Mountain, all sitting on the rocky surface eating lunch, taking pictures and visiting with fellow hikers.
I was incredibly pleased to have made it to the top and for having the opportunity to eat lunch in the presence of this vast landscape.
I was also proud of the teacher for overcoming both her fear of heights and her lack of confidence on less defined trails, and for prevailing and meeting her goal of making it to the top of the mountain...........
After only fifteen minutes of resting and eating and picture taking and looking out over the entire universe, it was time to head back.
With all of the effort we had put forth to make the ascent, I had not given a second thought to the trek back down the mountain (aside from making lame jokes about it being all downhill on the way home).
I took a lot of pictures on the way up but took fewer on the way back down.
As beautiful as this place was, after ninety minutes of almost continual downhill all I could honestly think about were my sore knees and extremely sore feet.
Knees because they have been beat up for so many years.
And feet because they were continually pushed forward, down and up against the toe box of my shoes.
The male of our three person hiking team also had the same foot problems.
The teacher actually and surprisingly seemed to fare much better on the downhill than we both did.
It was a beautiful walk down, but also painful and on many occasions I was sorry that I had not brought a trekking pole with me.......
I had a really outstanding time.
This trail was demanding but very doable. The companionship during my walk was enjoyable and surprisingly welcome.
I walked I ate I saw I had a great time.
And now my legs are wonderfully absolutely completely sore
A great day...........
How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are. How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk. ~Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, "The Walk," 25 October 1967