In my previous post I described how I bought a new pair of proper hiking boots. (Don’t ask me how on earth I managed to lose my old pair; I have no idea.) So the next day T and I went on a hike rated “moderate”, and about 12 km round trip. I didn’t look at the survey map, because just looking at those made me feel blue, so T told me that it was two kilometers along Lake Louise, which should be pretty level, and then 4 km uphill to a tearoom near the Plain of Six Glaciers. We had all day and if I didn’t feel up to walking to the tearoom by the time we got to the end of Lake Louise, I would turn back and T would go on alone.
Lake Louise is beautiful, but the path was completely level and I felt overdressed in my hiking boots, so I decided I’d join T to the tearoom. It was 4 km and we had all day–how hard could it be? That was my new boots talking! I hadn’t done anything yet, but I felt more confident just wearing them.
It was steep. For an out of shape person like me, anyway. But there was a nice cool breeze, which helped a lot, and I had my camera, so stopping to catch my breath every twenty to forty feet didn’t look as embarrassing as it could have: Wow, that glacier just looks more amazing with every step–must take another shot. And most importantly, T was his wonderful patient self, talking me up, telling me I could do this, that we had all day, that I could stop as often and as long as I needed to, even if it was every ten steps, like I expected it would be the further up we got.
And you know what? Even though it was tough, I had fun. Starting the ascent (oh yeah, ascent–I was in the mountains, after all), I immediately felt my muscle memory kick in. If you’ve never hiked in hiking boots before, thinking your sneakers are just fine, you have no idea how much unnecessary work your feet are doing, and how different you walk in good boots. It felt a little like coming home. Walking up a steep trail with roots and rocks kept me solidly in the moment, only focusing on where to place my foot next. I’ve always loved that about rough trails.
By the time we got to the big, wide rocky overlook of Lake Louise–if you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about–I was pretty darn beat, but someone told us that once we got to the switchbacks, it wasn’t much further. Switchbacks, oh boy. But I knew I had come at least halfway, so I might as well keep going.
And then something funny happened: at places where the trail was not super steep, it almost felt like I was going downhill. I should’ve been getting completely worn out, and instead it was getting easier! And all T’s little jokes just got more and more hilarious. It must have been some kind of mountain high–we were at an altitude of 6,316 ft, after all. Then one more turn and we were there. The tea house and a stone’s throw from a real live glacier! Or rather, six glaciers. It was beautiful and amazing and I wasn’t even crying from exhaustion.
The tea house wasn’t what I’d expected. I imagined big comfy lounge chairs and scones and little cucumber sandwiches on a tiered tray, and Earl Gray tea. Not having looked on any map, I expected a road to go up the other side of the mountain. But no, no road. The tea house was a tiny affair, with regular tiny chairs at wobbly little tables on a very narrow wrap-around balcony decorated with Tibetan prayer flags, and the waitresses, the cook and the food had gotten there the same way we did. Hiking. So I ate my chili and delicious hunk of bread with great respect and the local herbal tea was just wonderful. (On the way back down, our waitress overtook us, with her backpack, going home after her five-day shift. If you’re e a waitress, that’s where you want to be!)
Going down was a breeze. I was elated and so proud of myself! I hadn’t been this happy in a long time. I may not have had a backpack, but I was carrying almost eighty pounds, and that’s definitely an accomplishment in my book. I kept thanking T for talking me up the mountain. I still couldn’t believe I had done it, that I could still do it. Of course, T knew all along that I could, and that I just needed proof.
That evening I still had a mountain high. We went to a restaurant with the kids, and I had the silly giggles like a teenager. I just couldn’t stop giggling. R was mortified. Fortunately, I just love embarrassing my kids at restaurants.