Facing up to the vertical challenge | PostIndependent.com

Facing up to the vertical challenge

Without challenge, life for me is like a pan of vegetable lasagna.There may be some attention-grabbing ingredients, like spinach and ricotta cheese. But the exclusion of hot ‘n’ spicy Italian sausage leaves a significant void in the excitement factor.Last Thursday was such the case, as I joined five other girls from the paper on a moonlight hike up Sunlight. First, let me say I have been known to proclaim, on more than one occasion, “The only way I’m getting to the top of Sunlight is by riding an electric chair.”And I don’t mean the form of capital punishment invented in the late 1800s to replace hangings.It’s hardly a shocker that my participation in the hike began as a simple case of peer pressure. But this time it had nothing to do with spray painting a country road or sneaking a shot of vermouth from a friend’s grandfather’s liquor cabinet in high school.No that’s a dry martini.The irrefutable fact is I can really be challenged to act when I know everyone else who’s cool is doing it, too. My mother so did not need to know that about me – like I haven’t made her worry enough since picking up and moving out here almost three years ago. But that’s how I am. I like to join the fun and be part of the action.Sort of like Barbie’s best friend, Midge, but not as plastic.I surprised quite a few people when I decided to do the hike. I had told all the girls I probably wouldn’t be going because I had a story to write. A bad excuse, especially when my luck ran out in finding an Irish person in the valley for a St. Patrick’s Day feature.Leprechauns are few and far between these days.In preparation for the challenge, we ran through a list of desirables for a moonlight hike: snowshoes; chocolate-covered espresso beans; a head lamp; loud, snarling animals in the woods to scare me up the hill; and a bag to transport ski boots and skis. I didn’t have much to offer. Really, I had nothing much to offer at all.”I have gators,” I said, smartly thinking that would make a difference.”You probably won’t need those,” someone replied.Aha! I had almost gotten out of it. Then people started lending a pack here, a pair of Stabilicers there. Before I knew it, I had accepted the challenge – and there was no backing out.Not even a mean bout of PMS could save this pseudo-mountain girl.I figured I could borrow a head lamp from the family I rent from, who live directly above me. I borrowed the head lamp by ascending their driveway in my car up to their sliding glass door, oh about 30 feet from my own front door.”Can I borrow your head lamp?” I asked, wearing black leather heeled boots and my white puffy North Face coat.”Where are you going?” they asked.”On a moonlight hike up Sunlight,” I said, matter-of-factly.”In those?” they asked, pointing to the designer boots.I realized completing the task at hand would be the only way to shake this reputation of not being a real mountain girl.Mountain girls can be fashionable, too.Luckily, I’ve made strides with my rafting crew at not being such a wuss. The first time I ever ran Shoshone, my friend Barry was yelling at me to dig. My response was, “I can’t! I’m a girl!” He loves that story, mostly because he says I’m not that girly girl from Indiana anymore.Except, maybe, when challenged to climb part of a mountain and ski down in the dark.Or put up a tent.Unfortunately, by joining five other women for a moonlight hike that night I couldn’t pull the girl card. I couldn’t pull the flatlander card either – one hiker was from Chicago, another from New Jersey.With a fair degree of apprehension, I was in like a one-piece neon ski suit during the ’80s.After about an hour of gearing up – and no, I wasn’t applying make-up – we began climbing up Ute. That’s Sunlight’s longest trail which is approximately 212 miles from summit to base.The last time I walked 212 miles, I think I was shopping.I’ll leave out the time it took (some of) us to reach the top. But I finally made it, to the delight of my burning legs and strained lower back. Once at the top, it took three of us to squeeze my feet into my cold, stiff boots.Childbirth is not the only time “Push, push, push!” and “You’re almost there, just a little bit more!” is effectively directed at a woman.When the moon cast a bright glow over the snow-covered mountain as we all skied down after a few sips of hot chocolate, I was happy to have accepted the challenge. I even considered doing it again.Life, like a lasagna recipe, is better with some added flavor. Even if it burns a little going down.April E. Clark likes her lasagna with hot ‘n’ spicy Italian sausage and her moonlight hikes with hot chocolate. She can be reached at aclark@postindependent.com

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