This is the season of conditioning. The days still hold a length. The afternoons become barely warm. As the sun drops over the mountain ridge, the air cools quickly.
Year-round, I use one hike as a benchmark. Tonight was my first jaunt. From Overweightea, I grab a few oranges, a round of Brie and two hard rolls. Tossing them in my pack with a sweater, and two water bottles, I head up. This is the day to figure out how far I need to go to get back.
The hike is uphill all the way. Not steep, but consistent. Halfway along, it transitions from a steady uphill to a rolling uphill. Steeper uphills become interspersed with lower pitches. It’s an old trail, from the 20’s or 30’s most likely, and follows the contours and moving up and up and up. After a while, the flatter rolling parts, the shallow uphills, begin to seem like real true flats. But still, you climb and climb and climb some more.
At an opening, far into the valley and well above town, I stop, sit on a log and break out the cheese and rolls. After the roll, split and filled with slabs of Brie, I peel an orange putting the peels in the top pocket of my pack. The sweet bitterness sets perfectly after the roll. I take a drink of water.
High in the avalanche chutes, the alders range from pale yellow to an occasional patch of maple red. The aspens have a week to reach their peak. The ground cover spreads in a mix of red and yellow.
I saw little of anyone over the two hours. On the way in, at the very start, I met a couple out for a walk with their with two Goldens. On the way out, where my trail joined the main trail, another couple with two loud dogs walked a several hundred meters behind me. Stepping out, motoring with a long, even pace, I quickly leave them and their noise behind.
As I stretched out, leaving them behind, I realized, I’m far ahead of other years. Good.
Back down in town, I wandered over to the boulder by the high school and played a bit on the impossible moves, trying to get around the boulder while staying off the ground without hanging on the bomber top ledge. Up and down. Down and up. More a repetition of difficult moves and finding a balance than really bouldering. As I bouldered, the clouds moved through the sunset, finally becoming a flat primer gray. A crescent moon hung, clear, with a single planet in the early evening sky just above the Lizards.
With my legs feeling great and my hands feeling like they needed more work, I left. There is never an evening off a boulder that you don’t feel like your need more time on the rock. Never.
And there is jazz tonight at the Brickhouse.
All in all, life doesn’t get any better.