It is 6 am and I am sitting on the front stoop of my apartment with my hiking boots on waiting for a a guy I met at a bicycle event in a local brewery two days earlier. I am newly single, in my late twenties, and living in Portland, This means that I am accustomed to brew pubs, bicycle boys, and first dates that involve hiking. The six am is new. But this man seems nice, and has a long history of mountaineering and rock climbing, and wants to get an early start. In my mind I have chalked this up to being “hard core”. I also want to be “hard core” and also prove to my ex that I can still have outdoor adventures without him. Especially with men more hard core than himself. I figured that mountain climber beat kayaker and hiker any day. Besides, its going to be a beautiful sunny Saturday in late summer, the trails will be packed if we don’t get an early start, I quietly reason with myself, he’s just being practical.
We have chosen a hike called Angels Rest, aptly named for the spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge from the rocky crag at the top of the trail. It is a moderate day hike, five miles with a steep climb over the loose rock of a crumbling basalt flow. When we arrive at the trail head we grab our mostly empty backpacks, containing little more than water and a light lunch and head out of the parking area. At the trail head he stops saying, “Hold on, I need to grab some weight.” And he reaches down and starts loading softball sized chunks of basalt into his pack. “I really want to stay in shape for my next ascent.” He says, barely looking up as he continues to shove rocks into his pack. Great, I think. This guy is nuts.