I could have been a contender.
Are you familiar with that famous line spoken by Marlon Brando in The Waterfront? The Marlon Brando character is a washed-up boxer who was pressured to throw a fight. Could he had been a contender? Could he have been a great boxer in other circumstances?
I don’t know but the line pops up in my head every time an older hiker says “Oh, he/she’s young. That’s why she walks so fast or can walk so far.”
Really? I think. Could you have hiked much faster and over long distances when you were, let’s say, twenty-five years old? If so, what happened in the intervening years?
Marielle of Friends of the Smokies and I scouted our next Classic Hike of the Smokies today. We climbed up to Mt. Cammerer Lookout Tower from Davenport Gap, about 5.7 miles (one way) and 3,000 feet of ascent–in other words, steep.
We hiked together for about two miles, then I suggested that she go at her own speed. So she sped along.
I huffed and puffed up and I didn’t see her until I reached the trail junction from the A.T. to Mt. Cammerer Trail. I was brave enough to ask her how long she had been waiting – 25 minutes. Ouch!
But I’m also realistic enough to know that I couldn’t have kept up with her when I was twenty-five years old. But I don’t feel so bad. I know that if you hike up to Mt. Cammerer and down at any age, you’re fitter than 95% of the American population. Can I say, 99%?
I was “pretty athletic for a girl” in high school. But before Title Nine, the opportunities for organized sports were thin. I’m not sure I would have been a great athlete even with more opportunities. But as a twenty-something adult, I discovered hiking. It turns out that most serious middle-age hikers weren’t athletes as school children. Now there’s a research project for someone.
If you put one foot in front of the other and keep at it until you get there, you’re more persistent than most people. Age has little to do with it, but determination does.
What also matter is your willingness to be tired. Do you quit when you get tired? Or do you keep going? What is your exhaustion quotient? It’s not a real, scientific measurement but it differs between people. Mine is pretty high. If I’m not really tired after a hike or session at the gym, I obviously didn’t work hard enough.
So sign up for the Friends of the Smokies Mt. Cammerer Hike and be prepared to be exhausted.