Apparently folks didn’t like my last entry–or were just scared by the all German title (all it says, btw, is I speak a very very small amount of German). Lesson learned. 🙂
This morning dawned clear and gorgeous, and I was moved to hike up the mountain before my poetry coaching. I set off after breakfast with determination, up the (very) steep road to the mouths of the various hiking trails. I ran out of breath quickly, and since I was passing people pretty regularly on my way up, I tried to disguise my need to stop so my heart didn’t explode as a burning desire to look at a specific tree, or look intently at my phone. That’s how I got this random picture of a face on a tree:
I thought I was quite successful, and felt pretty good about the whole thing.
My confidence soon withered, however, as several retirees with walking poles got out of their cars along the road and started the ascent with no apparent effort–meanwhile I was huffing and puffing like a two pack a day smoker with a Krispy Kreme addiction. Some of this difficulty can be blamed on the altitude change (we’re quite a bit higher here than at home, and even the fittest of us have complained of getting out of breath on stairs), but really.
In a rather herculean effort (that I of course tried my best to play off as nothing) I pulled ahead of them and tried to beat them to the trail. I was trying to avoid walking WITH them, in case they wanted to start conversations (terrifying!) or that I might find out that they are indeed in far superior cardiovascular health. I made for the trail head as fast as I could without stroking out in the process, and found three options ahead of me with somewhat cryptic signage. My choices were Uphill, Uphill and Very Uphill. I could here the little white haired couples gaining on me, so in a moment of panic I chose Very Uphill and dove into the trees, hoping to gain enough ground so that they wouldn’t hear my pathetic wheezing as they passed.
Here I feel I should interject a word about Austrian hiking trails, and hiking in general. Hiking is very popular here; on Sunday afternoons you’d be hard pressed to find folks who were not out walking somewhere in the woods. All ages, all the time. Austrian trails, at least in the mountains, appear to be designed for mountain goats and triathletes. They do not believe in switch-backs here, so every trail takes a very aggressive, direct, Germanic route straight toward the top. Add a little rain, and the whole thing basically becomes a death trap. Because this does make the going a little challenging, even for the very fit 70 year-olds who easily mopped the floor with me this morning, Austrians tend to walk with poles. Like these:
So here I go, huffing my way up this just stupidly steep stretch of trail, hoping to avoid looking like an idiot. This game of cat and mouse continued with other hikers as I continued up the mountain, stopping often to breathe and ponder my lack of fitness and question my sanity. But I kept on climbing! I was determined to see some kind of vista, dangit, and was not going to turn back until I had–or until I ran out of time before my coaching, I suppose.
Visions of myself staggering, sweat-soaked, red-faced and puffing into my coaching with Wolfgang ran through my head as I went on. Also, a scenario where I collapse of a heart attack in the middle of the trail and am set upon by eager horse-flies, only to be found hours later by fit, cheerful Austrian old people who don’t speak English and look confused while I weakly protest that I am close to death…Flies chased me, and I found a little evergreen branch to wave about me as I walked. I gasped and wheezed and sweated. Just as I was thinking that it might be wise to turn back, I saw a break in the trees ahead.
It look me 45 minutes to get up. It took me less than 15 to get back down again.