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.