Nina Spencer

Feel the Pain (or Cold?) and Do it Anyway

Another heavy-duty hiking weekend completed, now. Saturday, November 20th, just a 7K urban hike through west-end Toronto's High Park. The real story, however, is Sunday, November 21st's trek.

On Sunday morning, I awoke in the predawn with a sure-fired sore throat. Although not fully conscious, I recollect thinking, "Uh oh, I simply can't get sick...not now...not so close to my climb time...and I have a hike in the morning!" Later, while still in bed, I thought, "Maybe I can call in sick to my climbing buddies...after all, I have an excuse...a sore throat and, let's be honest Nina, do you really want to go on a major hike on this gloomy, grey and coldest day of the autumn thus far?" My alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. I had to make a decision, "Do I stay or do I go now?" I got out of bed, pulled myself together, wrapped up as best I could with all my fancy wicking layers of hiking clothing, gargled three times before leaving the house and was on the road by 7:30. Destination: the Hockley Valley portion of the Bruce Trial (of which I've mentioned in previous blogs)...a stunningly rolling hills trail 75 minutes north of Toronto. Great incline training.

The whole way up I had a chill, despite my car's heated seats, and felt the dread that I'd made a mistake in leaving my Sunday morning bed. I was first to arrive. Got out of the car to test the temperature. Cold. Really cold. And I felt certain that, just like last week, I was underdressed yet again. You know this business of tinkering with layers of one's hiking clothes-to get it juuuuuust right--is tricky. I feel like Goldilocks! A tank-top base layer, a thermal long sleeved shirt, a half-zip sleeved based layer, a fleece and a shell is tooooo hot. A tank base layer, a sleeved turtleneck base layer and a mere shell is tooooo cold. How to get things just right is an art. And don't even get me started about the right combination of leg wear! Ugh! I sure liked this hiking thing in the warm weather, but hiking in the "off season' is a horse of a different colour. But, guess what? It must be done. There are four seasons of climbing weather on Mt Kilimanjaro and I intend to be comfortable and confident climbing in all. So I sucked it all up and soldiered forth. And, as you probably guessed, once I got going and out there, and not feeling so sorry for myself (sore throat and all), I not only was warm enough but, at times, even toasty. And, guess what else? My sore throat seemed to disappear!

It's a funny thing, whether on a grand hiking trail, in private life or at work, when we don't want to do something, the feet are led, our resistance is high and our literal (or metaphoric) muscles are tight. Right? Once we either push through happily, or merely get on with it because we know we must or ought to, performing the task at hand gets easier and is often even more pleasant or joyful than we'd imagined.

Along with my Kili buds, I hiked 17 K over 4 hours and 6 minutes and burned 1700 calories to boot, today. Yup, we keep count down to the minute and up to the calories burned pretty much each time out...all through the most stunning woods, over bridges with quintessential babbling brooks running beneath, and over wooden ladders to cross property fences. We lunched perched on a huge fallen log, down in the depths of a hollow, to avoid the cold wind, and we even found the most discreet place yet to "go" outside, behind a century ruin of an old mill wall. I'm becoming quite a pro at this outdoors "activity" now; although it astonishes many, I'd never had such an experience of "going" outside my whole life until this past July up in Algonquin!

Lately I've been asking my friends, "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" For some this question has turned out to be a real curve-ball, for they were rattled that they couldn't come up with any answers. On the contrary, for me, 2010, especially since signing on for this climb, has been full of "first times", "going outside" notwithstanding (again no pun intended, for I have been standing, every darned time!).

Despite the beauty and benefit of this hiking day, after all, it was pretty much a "run of the mill" sort of hike (again, no pun intended!). No one fell. None of us saw a deer, or a moose, or a bear or anything like that today (yet all of us have done such or seen such on one hike or another over the weeks), but it was another banner day out on the trial, all the same. Why? Because we logged some of our longest Ks yet--all done in the coldest of temperatures yet and with the highest of spirits yet, too (after all, there are only 8 weeks left until fly time and we all know it and that's getting us pretty excited).

Afterwards, in typical cold weather-type tradition, we all headed over to the quaint hamlet of Hockley for the best-ever hot chocolates and chicken soup. Good for us all and great for my throat! I'm fine now. See? Nothing that an exhilarating Sunday hike in the country couldn't fix, eh? I'm glad I went.