The post-Old Rag experience.

It’d hard too say if dreams are real or are prophetic or are just fun things your brain likes to do. So yesterday morning while still in the midst of dreamland, evidently I was worried/anxious about the whole thing because my dream was strange:

I had awoken in pitch black and trying to eat breakfast at our old house, but then realized that 9am was in 10 minutes! Quickly I scrambled and went outside to the waiting car only to have it not be J, but the other J who I maintain communication with on Fbook. He drives me away in the dark and I was a little concerned because I needed to meet with J at the appointed time to go hiking. I keep telling him to turn around and take me home, but he just smiles and keeps driving until it gets light and we reach a city and a shopping mall. I beg and beg him to let me home because there’s someone I need to meet up with! He finally seemed disheartened and turns around. It’s a short-lived relief because he turns into a cargo bay of a warehouse and parks. Then he gets out and walks through a door, saying that he needs to call the cops on this place. Turns out it’s some woman living in this warehouse space. She locks us (me??) in and says not to try anything because she has bees (actually a beehive), spiders (which she and other J commence hand-feeding) and a dog with no eyes that’s really cute (kind of a collie type dog with it’s eyes gouged out) and friendly. Then all of the sudden there’s a kid, her kids, and they’re going bonkers flipping things over and causing explosions. I take the opportunity to unlock the door and jet, running zigzag and finally getting to a phone to try and call the police. Then I get a text on my CELL PHONE (what??) that original J was running late. A quick look at my watch indicates the time of 1:15pm so I tell him that it’s OK, so am I. Then I look around for any car to drive home with and — POOF. I am awake.

Ironically I was running a little late with breakfast and final packing and all, and so was he because he did text to say he was running late.

Anyhoooos, we go and travel and get to the parking lot. Once again I am too slow to pay for things and he pays the $15 entrance fee. And off we go! I was soooooooo excited, even if fog was covering that vast majority of the mountain, we saw some dead frogs, and I stepped in a freezing creek water before we turned around to find that we missed the trail head. And bridges. We start slogging up the trail, seeing people ahead of us and Right away I am hit with fatigue. Not even 20 feet in. My thighs are on fire and I am breathing horribly heavily while trying to make light of it and holding a conversation. This goes on for the next hour and a half as we climb and I complain and pretend to stop and admire the scenery while secretly trying to catch my breath. Wind, wind, wind up and up and up until FINALLY we reach the first rock hurdles. I took at picture of that there and off we go. I asked J at one point how he wasn’t tired at all and his answer was simply, “youth.” What more was there to say to that? He totally got me. So far we had to stop like 20 times and even to let people pass because I was much too slow. We keep climbing until we have our second food break, but first major break. At this point we could see out into the great foggy nothingness which was kind of disappointing, but had it’s own ethereal beauty. The pine trees were my favorite. Then off again! And that’s when we make it up to the ROCK CLIMBING PART. Throughout this entire journey so far I had no idea what to expect. Having never been hiking before, I just thought it was wandering around on a nice trail (like Manassas). HAAAAAAAAAAA. J was apologetic about not warning me of the scope of this thing, seeing that I was 100% unprepared for something so grueling, but my answer was even if he had told me, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I’d never experienced this and had nothing to base it on.

To be honest, the rock scrabbling was by far my favorite part. It wasn’t until we had to go down this crazy crevice thing that I realized the extent of what we were going to do. My adrenaline was pumping and something from years ago awoke within me. Remember how I used to climb building and trees and things at Mary Washington? 8 years ago I would have reveled, relished and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was thrilling, it was somewhat death-defying, and certainly dangerous. The only thing that was getting me horribly down was the lack of physical conditioning of my body. I am prone to muscle cramps. My thighs had long been burning, but this took it to a new level. Then I cramped a calf muscle…then the other one. It was only a matter of time, I had known from the start (hence my packing of 3 prunes)…it was just a question of when and where. That part sapped from the whole experience, but to be honest it was helpful because it encouraged me to not try and be a hero about certain tricky spots, but to use my brain and ultimately THE POWER OF THE BUTT-SLIDE. I tell you I will never complain about my butt again. That is the only part of me that has remained unscathed throughout this experience. There is this one CRAZY part where J swore there used to be a rope to help pull yourself up. It was a bottleneck and RIGHT AFTER I had just pulled calf #2. The guy in front of me had the most horrible time getting up and it really made me super nervous I was like, I can’t do this, I can’t do this. But to everyone’s surprise, especially me, I made it up within 2 seconds flat. J said I made that look unbelievably easy. It’s all in the butt I tell you!!! Since my legs were not able to be utilized properly, I would just sit and slide and use my knees and arms. More rock climbing, more death defying leaps. J kept offering to help pull me up, but I refused because I kept thinking I’d pull him down with my weight. But in the end there was one part I just couldn’t do without pulling another muscle, so I gave in and he didn’t fall, but he certainly leaned way back almost to sitting. That’s when I think he realized how much I weigh. Another thing to put it into perspective were some really skinny parts. He pulled in his arms and just went through, but I had to go sideways because my shoulders are much wider.

Then we reached the SUMMIT. We skipped that altogether and kept going down. Too many people plus all fog anyways. Going down was SO MUCH BETTER, except on the knees. Sadly the descent was horrible for my cramped calves, but at least I wasn’t huffing and puffing and was actually able to hold a conversation properly. Much fewer stops on the way down, but there were many more people too. We kept stopping, then passing and stopping to let the same groups of people by. It was funny to recognize the other hikers. We stopped at one point because the sun finally dissipated the clouds and we could see the breathtaking sight of the mountain and where we were on the top. We took pictures for one group and they di the same for us. I actually don’t like it because I LOOK SO FAT. Then we keep going and reach the end of the trail. I was so happy and exhilarated and relieved. But that’s not all! After that happiness, we had to walk down this torturous 2.5 mile path of boringness all downhill with rocks and junk and cigar smokers. We watched as the sky got darker and my mind was numb with thoughts of pain and boredom. Much less to talk about now, but we FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY made it to the parking lot and I felt like yesss finally I can feel satisfaction. Finally I can be proud. 8ish miles of pain, torture, beauty and determination. I was so glad he was driving.

All in all, I had such a good time. I can now say I defeated Old Rag (despite almost having it defeat me) with battle scars to prove it. I hiked for the first time in my life. 8ish miles is the farthest I have ever travelled on foot. My determination level is beyond what I had known I had in me. Never once did the thought of turning around cross my mind despite it all. I had to finish no matter what. I feel bad that J had to pander to me the entire time, that was such a weak link, but he was so very nice about it, tried to apologize for it, very encouraging the whole time. I learned a lot about him and I bet he did about me for better or worse. I wouldn’t take the experience back, but I sure won’t be going back any time soon. Or ever. haha. Rugged stuff is surely not for me.

Now as I am zombified and crawling literally around the house, getting my mom to walk my dogs for me because I literally could not stand up this morning, I still regret nothing except that I wish I had been in better physical shape to tackle the monstrosity, for J’s sake.

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