Fran watched me begin to leisurely fritter away another day and then asked,
"Want to go exploring and seeking adventure with me?"
"What did you have in mind?"
After a few more minutes of back and forth, to determine exactly what she had in mind, I suited up for a cold weather hike up Mary's Peak. We were parked, paid and ready to hit the trail by 12:12 pm. Early starters we are not.
This past summer, Fran and I hiked in the McDonald-Dunn Forest. Near the top we encountered a trail closure due to logging and ended up taking a wrong turn or three. We walked down a steep loose gravel road, through a rural area and then a highway--eleven miles total. That experience has caused me to approach Fran's adventures with a bit more caution. I like the exercise and the outdoors, but I have to be mindful of my hip. I paid for that day.
Friday, my first concern occurred when the road up to the lower level parking lot had snow and ice on the shady curves. Thankfully the lot itself was mostly bare with the area directly surrounding it sporting 3-4 inches of older snow. We set off. The snow and ice was only on half of the 3+ mile trail, but slick enough (and at times treacherous) that our eyes were focused on the path instead of the trees. I only biffed once, when I stepped in powder, on the downhill side of the path, to avoid ice . I quickly landed on the ground, when my foot slid out from under me. Lesson learned: not all snow has earth beneath it.
When we were only a switchback away from the upper parking lot, the sound of children's laughter rang down the hillside to our ears. The trail opened up to lovely low winter sunshine hitting the snowy hillside. College age snowboarders were laughing and unloading their rig, children were sledding down the slope with two young pups romping along side of them. We sat at a picnic table
for a snack and water before heading back down to the car.
The hike down took half the time as the hike up. (There must be a formula, to determine the age of the walker, using that data.) We hit the lower parking lot, where a young mother began to ask us questions about the trail: was it worth it? was it beautiful? would her 10 year old daughter be able to handle it? Fran and I only answered the questions she asked, but I couldn't help wondering if we should counsel them on starting a 3 mile trail at 3pm in the month of January and not taking water with them. Neither of us gave unasked for advice, yet I'm still wondering whether we did the right thing.