Going the Back Way

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Lately I have had a practice of hiking up a difficult mountain for the cardio benefits and then using the coming down time for spiritual wandering. Today I set off on my path upward but had ill-timed my ascent—a 20 something couple was also hiking up. I am a bit self-conscious (it’s the puffing and wheezing, really) and so was not enjoying having them behind me. And indeed, the girl barked at her male companion “where is your cardio!!” and pushed on past me, shooting me a disparaging look as she went. I rolled my eyes behind my sunglasses—then almost gagged. This girl would never be attacked by a bear or cougar; the amount of perfume she was wearing would stun any animal from 5 feet away. I held my breath and slowed down, waiting for the guy to pass me.

He did and I figured they would push on ahead of me and I would be free of them. Instead, he received a call on his cell phone, which he answered, and then proceeded to hike slowly, while loudly talking on his phone.

After what seemed an interminable amount of time he hung up his cell phone. “Now we are getting somewhere” I thought to myself. They would get on with it and leave me to my slower, wheezing ascent.

But no, now they had to stop and start taking selfies.

Okay, I realize this is common behavior in our culture. And it’s not limited to millenials. And, I should probably not even pay attention to it. But something about this couple clicked something in me and with a huff of irritation I veered off on a side trail and started hiking the mountain the less popular back way.

And it was glorious. The mall-perfume miasma of the girl was replaced by the gorgeous scent of warm pine needles and hot blackberries. The slanting light of the sun as it started to dip behind the mountain made the pale, late summer grass glow. And I saw something I had never noticed before—the path was glittering. For a second I thought someone had gotten crazy with glitter out in the woods, but no, a closer look revealed that it was likely mica flakes. And here and there were chunks of quartz stuck in the dried mud.

Indeed, it does pay to take the less trodden path.

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