Last summer, I started hiking for the first time, motivated and masterminded by my brother, Michael Arthur. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it, despite my natural propensity to prefer snackful sloth. Last year my brother planned hikes for us all over the state, but this summer he suggested a more linear goal: that we hike the PA part of the Appalachian Trail, in day hikes over many months. (It's 229 miles, so it will be a multi-year goal.) I am no hardy thru-hiker and camper, so all hikes must be followed with nightly restaurant feasts and showers, and my brother does all the logic puzzle labor of planning car drop offs, dining options, and meet up spots. He is somewhat magical and saintly in doing all the work, including the lugging of the heavy pack. All I do is show up, slather on some sunscreen, tie my shoes, and hit start on the fancy fitbit my brother bought me. I crave credit for every step and stair! I'm a sweat-wicking-gowned princess in stained slippers with excellent mud-caked traction. (They have cute purple accents, too.)
I'd rate my average hiking mood as moderately cranky to joyful, depending on the humidity, mileage, and distance to dinner. Last year hills were my major nemesis, but they are a little less daunting this year, as I have honed powerful coping strategies including creative cursing and frequent tree leans to lasso my heart rate back down.
On one hike, though, I distinguished myself.
It was a steamy day, and I was dragging from the previous day's hike. It was one of our first hikes of the season, and my spoiled muscles were missing their winter hibernation. The trail had many handy cheat spots, accessible roadways where I could plop myself and wait for my superhero brother to drive a car to rescue me. Michael had already negotiated that I should attempt another mile to the next possible rescue spot, and when we got there, I once again tried to bail.
"I'd be happy if you just make it to the next stop at the bottom of the hill," Michael said.
Something snapped, something irrational and ugly and loud. I stomped and yelled. I raced ahead, which obviously proved how exhausted I was, that I could rush ahead and scream. I mentioned something profanity-peppered about expiring on the trail, and how that might make my brother REALLY happy, etc. nasty etc.
My again somewhat-saintly brother caught up to me, mentioned something calm and careful like, "It really isn't cool to rush ahead and yell when someone is trying to reason with you," and sped ahead to let me cool off.
A minute after the tantrum, embarrassment hit. It's not cool to be over forty (or any age) and to be shrieking in the wilderness, with your brother as your target and his lovely girlfriend as your witness. I did lots of apologizing and self-shaming. Part of my punishment was that everyone who asked about that day's hike got to hear the truth about my shrieking.
The incident has not repeated itself. It's actually become a bit of a joke. My brother claimed his lawful rights to tease me about it for the rest of my life, and a scale has been created to gauge my grumpiness. Since my attack was near a cabin, the Maria tantrum scale is based on shelters, from a mild crankiness (tent) all the way to off-the-charts monster (mansion).
I'm trying to keep it at tent growl level and for this to serve as my once-in-a-lifetime major hiking temper tantrum. I'm carrying on a proud family tradition, after all, one my usually mild-mannered dad began over twenty years ago in the Muir Woods, when he grew tired of my brother's and my teenage tree-hugging antics and threw a surprising and mythical conniption of his own.
And thanks again to my brother, for not yelling back and for continuing to hike with me. I owe him a mountain-mansion of vegan treats.