Gift of Rainy Day Hikes

Last Sunday, October 24, 2010, I hiked my longest hike (kilometer-wise/17K) to date, along Rattlesnake Point/Crawford Lake Portion of Ontario’s spectacular Bruce Trail. Drove there in the sopping rain at 7 a.m. It rained all Saturday night. The kind of rain you can hear through closed windows. The kind that wakes you up. Which it did me, at 3 and 4 and 5 a.m. As I laid there in the dark, in the middle of the night, I thought, “I’m nuts! This is nuts! I know, intellectually, that I should hike “rain or shine” in the morning, ’cause, “You never know it you’re gonna have to climb in the rain on Mt. Kili…yada yada yada, but do you really want to voluntarily hike in this deluge??? Why don’t you turn off your alarm, roll over and sleep in, instead?” Man, it was tempting to listen to that lazy, rascal no-count voice inside. But I didn’t. I got up in the predawn, muttering to myself all the way, got dressed, and before departing, stopped to engineer a make-shift waterproof cover for my backpack, for I’ve yet to buy the proper protective cover for it (thank goodness for plastic garbage bags, by the way). Note to self: must pick up one of those backpack covers from Mountain Equipment Co-op this week (that’s “MEC” if you’re “cool” and “in” with the outdoors life scene. Ah, MEC! An outdoorsy person’s Shangri-La. I defy anyone to go there and not spend a bundle. What a store! But I digress). And off I went along the fairly empty westbound 401.

Putting the best spin possible on this pissy drive, I thought, “Well at least I get to try out my rain gear…water shell jacket, rain pants, gaitors.” Gaiters, you ask? Gaiters are these really nifty little zipper covers that go over/wrap around hiking boots and hook into the laces at the front. Good for protecting your boots from the rain and muck (meaning keeping your feet dry…most important), and also good, in dry weather, for keeping dust and stones and pebbles out of your boots, especially when climbing up or down mountain or hillside scree.

Don’t know what “scree” is? Neither did I. Boy oh boy, the things I’m learning while training for this adventure of a lifetime! Scree, also called talus, is a term given to an accumulation of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, or valley shoulders. Landforms associated with these materials are sometimes called scree slopes or talus piles. So now you know.

Did I tell you I hate rain-hiking? But, like a good Canadian, I didn’t let the weather stop my plans, nor my commitment and, what do you know? The very minute I turned into the conservation area’s parking lot, the rain stopped. Just like that. And it didn’t come back; it was damp and cool for the whole hike, and foggy, too, but, hey, no rain!

Funny about that. I wasted so much time cursing and fretting about the rain-a future worry-and when the time came to hike, there wasn’t any. A waste of skull sweat, as it turned out, considering I was going to hike regardless. Another of my climbing colleagues cancelled altogether (as I’d secretly mused), when she looked out her bedroom window Sunday morn. And she missed a fabulous hike, over all sorts of valuable training terrain, with the added bonus of virtually empty trails. Why? Because it had been….raining!

Once out there and at it, among my fellow climbers, however, the cool of the morning, the residue of the rain on the ground, the leaves, the trees and the rocks were beautiful, actually. Poetic. Made me feel special and uplifted. A lovely day, all glistening and vibrant because of the sheen of water. And all the colourful autumn splendour was still showing off on the trees at Rattlesnake that day, and quite a lot, too, on the ground. I missed the opportunity to hike the more northerly Algonquin Park at the height of the autumn colour due to my injury (discussed in my previous blog), but here at this more southerly Rattlesnake Point location, the colour was still ablaze. I’ve come to realize now, too, that even though one must constantly be looking down at the next step, thereby seemingly missing the view ahead, in the autumn you can still see the glory right underfoot; for once all the leaves have fallen from the trees, there they are, giving an encore performance all over the ground! Gorgeous. Actually, a much brighter, nicer “view” that autumn morning, looking at the ground, compared to what I’ve been staring at on all my summertime trails.

So there you go. A lesson learned about the rewards of hiking deep into the autumn on a wet Sunday morning. And the moral of this story, as I see it? Once we (I?) surrender and decide to see the beauty in something we first experience as irritating, there really can be a transformation in what the eyes and heart behold. I wonder if that works with irritating coworkers and clients/customers, too? Do ya think? Hmmmm. A point to ponder, perhaps? Your thoughts?

P. S. And how very fitting that, the very next day-as I was contemplating these above revelations–a dear friend, who has also climbed in Tanzania, sent me the following quote:

How frequently the reward of beauty is associated with the dignity of toil, as if nature consciously reserves her noblest effects for those who take some trouble to earn them. -Sir Arnold Lumm, Writer & Mountaineer

Touché.

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