I recently joined the Colorado Mountain Club and signed up for my first group guided hike. I was a little nervous, but also super excited to meet new people and of course get outdoors. At 8am, I arrived at the pre-designated meeting spot to find out I had inadvertently signed up for a hike with the “Over the Hill Gang” (over 50 years old), but I didn’t mind; age doesn’t mean much to me.
I introduced myself to the group and noticed that a few of my fellow hikers were a little concerned about my age and they warned me that I would find the hike a bit boring or slow-paced. I assured them I would be fine; I had signed up for the easiest hike on the calendar on purpose, I had just done a really grueling leg workout a couple of days earlier and I wanted to gauge the club’s hiking classifications (yes, there is such thing).
Hiking North Table Mountain
So on we went, carpooling to the trail we would be hiking and getting to know my fellow hikers on the way.
Upon arriving at the location, we started our hike. A mile in, due to trail conditions (deep snow and ice) we had to change our plans and find another trail. We ended up at North Table Mountain, a trail that I had hiked last year in the summer and a trail that I remembered as being pretty tough. North Table Mountain is located in Golden, around 20 miles from Denver and it’s part of Jefferson County Open Spaces System. What makes it so tough is the torturous initial incline, 400ft in just half a mile. It’s the type of climb in which you need to lean forward just to keep your balance. Although short in length, it seems to go on forever. To me, this incline is nature’s gift to naughty people!
BUT as with all other group activities, you go with the flow. I was supercharged to see if I would have a different experience on this trail compared to last year. For the past few weeks, I have been feeling stronger and healthier than ever, so logically this time the trail should be easier, right?
We started the climb up North Table Mountain and it became clear to me that my group might average twice my age, but they were super fit. Although I was happy to see that I made it up the climb much faster than last time and with less effort, I was at the back of the pack and breathing harder than any of them. I was glad I was with the “Over the Hill Gang”, if this was supposed to be the “slow pace group”, I didn’t want to find out what fast paced meant.
You see, there is “fit” and there is “Colorado fit”, and I am pretty sure I am light-years from being Colorado fit.
The best example of what Colorado Fit looks like is the 80+ years old man in our group who kept steadily climbing that damn hill and having a conversation with another hiker without so much breaking a sweat or skipping a breath. Or the several others, running or biking it up.
Some people would be ashamed to admit being less fit than someone much older, but I am not. I’m keeping it real!
In my last post, I mentioned Colorado has some of the fittest people around and routinely I see people on the trail that beat all stereotypes. While kids in other parts of the country rarely go outdoors, Colorado kids bag fourteeners. And that continues into adulthood and beyond. Several times I have had to challenge my own pre-conceived ideas of “normalcy” when I watch pregnant women in their third trimester and parents carrying babies/toddlers on their backs in difficult hikes and cold weather. It is pretty awesome to be able to see a whole different perspective on life, what it means to be fit and how to live outdoors.
The “Over the Hill Gang” are no different. They are a phenomenal group of hikers. They hike twice a week at elevation in rain, sun, snow or ice. These are the people you pray to a higher power you can be like when you grow up. At least I do.
What was originally supposed to be an easy, casual hike of 6 miles with low elevation gain turned into 6.5 miles of a moderate to difficult hike, circumventing the entire North Table Mountain in a series of climbs and descents with a 20 minute lunch stop at mid-point. We had already hiked 2+ miles at the first trail, adding up to almost 9 miles for the day.
Several hours later we were back at the parking lot. My feet and entire body hurt and I was pretty sure I could eat an entire pizza and not even get close to the calories I burnt on this hike.
For the next two days, I felt like I had the flu. I was absolutely miserable, physical exhaustion that was accompanied by dehydration (I hydrated, but not enough apparently). My muscles were sore like you wouldn’t believe.
As I vegetated on the couch, replenishing electrolytes and calories, I started realizing that this hiking thing is pretty addictive- I had unconciously started planning my next hike.
And guess what my new-found friends were doing just a couple days later? Going on another hike, of course!
Age doesn’t mean much. specially around here.