NORMAN — They were looking at me like King Kong looking at Faye Ray. I had said I wanted to climb the mountain with them.
“Mom, this is a hard climb, two people died last year,” my daughter Samantha stated concerned, then added, “and they weren’t 60 years old.”
“I’m 59 for a few more months,” I said, knowing what she was thinking: That’s still pretty darned old.
“Yes.” I said, “but they aren’t me.” So it went. Me, my son and my son-in-law driving to the base of the Camel Back Mountain, which is also a state park, in Phoenix. Did I mention we were doing the “Hard” side?
The radio was blaring the lyrics “Call 911, there’s an emergency.” My son interrupted the radio. “Mom, they’re playing your song.” The haranguing made him and my sweet son-in-law laugh. Go ahead and laugh, I thought, my resolve more determined. We pull in, the mountain high above us. As we are getting our water packs out of the trunk, my son-in-law points to the park ranger standing nearby.
“Go shake the park rangers hand, because he is the one that will be putting you in the helicopter.” Again, laughter. Again, steeling my resolve.
Before we began the climb, I did a check list. Tight gloves, good shoes, a water supply on my back to keep my hands free, a cell phone, and some ChapStick. It was my arsenal against the mountain. I told the boys to go ahead. We would meet at the top. I saw some eye rolling.
The first 15 minutes was pretty easy, a teaser, because it is after all a full mile straight up. Let me say that again. One mile. Straight up. I would let people go in front of me for two reasons. One, I didn’t want to slow them down. Secondly, I observed their technique to navigate the rocks and boulders. Almost all of them were younger than me, and in better shape. However, they didn’t have the inspiration of doubting son and a son-in-law, confusing them for Methuselah. I took my time and visited with fellow hikers. One young girl had interesting shoes. They looked like gloves for your feet, with each toe having its own divided space. Her feet made me think of a gorilla’s foot.
“Are those better for climbing?” I ask.
“Not really, they offer no ankle or foot support on top, and they really don’t grip the terrain better than my hiking boots.” She took a swig of her water and continued, “they were a Christmas gift from my boyfriend, so I felt obligated to wear them. You know how it goes.”
I nodded. I told her about the gauntlet thrown down by my family. I confided in her that I was going to make it up the mountain even if I had to do it with bloody stumps.
“You go girl,” she laughed and encouraged me.
With that, Curious Georgia left to find the man in the yellow hat or get to the bottom of the mountain, probably the latter.
I continued my assent and found I was having to rest more often, drink more water and wondered if a St. Bernard would bring me some alcohol if I passed out. My next rest period, I watched a family climbing with their dog. The dog looked happy to be on the mountain. Too happy. I knew there was a reason I liked cats. As I was pondering my next step, my cell phone beeped. I had a message: a picture of the boys at the summit of the mountain, standing by the decorated Christmas tree. The caption for the picture: “Wish you were here (LOL).” Which started some texts back and forth.
“Show offs!” I texted back.
“Where are you?”
“In the bushes with Big Foot having a romantic moment.” It could have been the wind, but I think I’d made them laugh.
They text back that they were on their way down.
I was a little over half way up. I saw the boys waiting on a little plateau.
“How are you feeling GaGa?” This is the sweet name my grandkids call me. “This is a good place to turn around.” They half ask and half suggest.
My brain is telling me, “Turn around fool. Your arms hurt. Your legs would hurt, too but you lost feeling in both of them on the last slide on gravel.” This was true. I had to pull myself up on a branch. It gave way and I almost bit through my tongue. Even though it had nothing to do with this climb, I was getting an ugly fever blister, too. Just sayin’.
However, I muster up my strength and tell the two doubting gentlemen in my life, “Not until I get to the top. I want my own picture with the Christmas tree.”
They leave and say they’ll see me at the base. I should have brought a flashlight, I thought. Then I consoled myself. Surely I could get down before dark in six hours. Right?
I was about to get to the top and I saw groups coming down that I had let go in front of me. A 13 year old boy took a minute to puke. He complained as he went by me.
I thought “Yeah. Not a mamby pamby video game, huh little guy?” Shortly after, I thought about throwing up in the same place. I took yet another break and a man about my age (but in much better shape) asked if he could help. I repeated the bet with my faithless boys. He and his son laughed and ask what the stakes of the bet were.
“They have to tell me I may be a granny, but I am a ‘hip’ granny,” I say. Or a granny with an artificial hip after this hike, I think to myself.
I finally get to the top. Success. Where is Leo Dicaprio to hold my arms out, so the summit wind can blow my hair? Well, at least I have my picture made with the Christmas tree. Woo hoo. Queen of the mountain. That was the prettiest tree I had ever seen in my 59 not 60 years. Now, the harder part, getting down. A handsome, muscular man wearing a kilt went by me. I was hoping a gust of wind might divulge the age old question, “What exactly do they wear under those kilts?” No such luck, he smiled and left me in his dust.
I finished the adventure in 5 hours and 45 minutes. The boys finished in 3 hours. However, I am double their age so it would make sense I would be double their time. Math is beautiful like that.
The only real obstacle was drinking all that water and not being able to pee for almost 6 hours. I had three kids in four years. When I am not on a mountain, I flow like the Ganges. I pee about every hour. It was a motivation to hurry on down that mountain.
I highly recommend this climb for all ages, families, individuals, dogs and kilt wearers. Things you need to be successful are good shoes, fitted gloves, loose clothes, water. A rabbit’s foot, four leaf clover, rosary, flask of liquor (in case you get stiffed by the St. Bernard) and skeptical family members who thought you couldn’t do it will help you scramble your way up to the top.
I think I will be sore until next Christmas, but I didn’t go boom, boom down the mountain so maybe I’ll try again next year.