Congratulations! You survived. That was awful. You will never do this again.
Except you will.
The pain fades away. The sunburn peels and turns into a tan. The blisters turn into calluses. These are actually kinda cool, you think. Badass.
You notice how many people liked that photo you posted on Generic Social Media Site. A girl at work comments on your tan skin. Another coworker casually mentions to other people that you’re the “athletic type” and you’re not used to that label.
It feels good.
Your brain starts modifying the memories without you even realizing it. You’re retelling the story to friends and family, fondly reminiscing on the time you started sobbing hysterically because you couldn’t breathe and you needed your hiking partner to slow down, I’m begging you – you’re looking at the pictures and soon, you begin rationalizing, “That hike wasn’t that bad, I could probably do it again.”
Little do you know, that hike was the gateway drug.
You start casually researching other trails. Other hikes. You even start thinking of doing that hike AGAIN, maybe avenge yourself and do it better this time. Yeah, just do that hike again.
So you go again – and boy, wow, you were wrong, this hike still sucks.
It’s like with every mile there’s something new to make it worse – maybe the trail faded and all the trigger-happy cairn builders have built one too many misleading cairns. Or perhaps there’s a lot of loose rock on a steep hill and you’re remembering a little too vividly the friend of yours who broke his femur slipping on loose shale. Or you’ve encountered a boulder field – the trail has become more “scramble” than hike by this point and despite the fact that it looks to be a couple football fields long, it takes an hour to even navigate the damn thing.
Summiting, at this point, seems less desirable.
But your own fragile ego, your overwhelming pride – the part that wants to conquer this freaking mountain already and boast that once again, I DID THE THING – keeps you going. You start to experience nausea in the thinning air, but you keep going, step by step until you hit the top of the mountain.
Reaching the summit feels amazing because you’re finally done. They helicopter you off this thing, right?
No? You mean we WALK back?
The walk back is half-agony, half-I-need-the-thing-with-feathers. Sure, the trees are pretty, and yeah, that view was stunning, and OKAY, THAT MOOSE WAS COOL TOO, but oh geez this is awful I need this to end now.
Regrets. So, so many regrets.
It takes hours to get back – less than how many it took to get to the summit, but it feels like more because you were done with this hike by the time you made it to the top. But you make it back.
Such pain. Much blister. Very exhaust. Wow.
But now it’s been a week, and hey, who wants to go for a hike?