I had a hard time staying comfortable while trying to sleep last night. Between the occasional leg cramps and complaining sore muscles, I kept waking up and remembering that I'm old.
This observation really came to light yesterday afternoon when my 41-year-old brother (the cartoonist) and my 44-year-old sister (a great horse woman who earned a first-place at a Spokane dressage event Sunday) came by and said they wanted to check out the Mickinnick Trail.
So, we hopped in my sister Laurie's white Ford pickup and listened to country western tunes while driving up the road just a ways to the trail head. I told Laurie there would be plenty of walking sticks available at the gate and that she might want to take one. Of course, I had my high-priced metal poles given as a birthday present from Bill. Laurie passed on the hiking stick idea.
After she checked out the facilities at the newly-opened Forest Service trail northwest of Sandpoint, we opened the gate and headed down the level pathway winding through tall, dry, yellow grass. We also looked over to our left and could see portions of the huge City of Sandpoint water tank through the trees.
I told my brother and sister how I'd used the water tank as part of my directions for classmates to find the trail head two weeks ago, only to learn for myself that the trees surrounding it had grown a bit over the years, completely shielding it from view of the road. Then, they told me of their disappointment that the water tank wasn't painted "filter house green."
That observation evolved from the fact that for 33 years our dad worked for the City of Sandpoint water department. And during that time, there must've been a good buy on bright green paint, cuz everything inside the old water filter plant just across the road from the Mickinnick was painted green as was everything in our dad's shop. We still have the boxes to prove it; even the push-button accordian he used to play for us on Saturday nights is stored in a bright green plywood box.
As we moved on down the trail, Laurie said she kinda liked this route through an old pasture and a wetlands at the base of the mountain. I reminded her that we hadn't started climbing yet. Once we started up that first segment of crushed rock, she acknowledged that this might not be the best for the casual biker or even for horses. Nonetheless, she trudged up the hills almost effortlessly as did Jim. I, in the rear, tried to keep up for a while.
While huffing and puffing, I thought of how nice it had been two weeks ago on my sixth trip up the trail when my companions were all classmates----the same age. They didn't mind one bit stopping every five minutes or so to chat and rest their aching bones. Well, right at that moment, I turned around and behind us came an athletic-looking couple with their Golden Retriever who had appeared out of nowhere. I offered to let them pass me by because with their ambitious gait, there'd be no hanging back behind this old soul.
The man laughed at my "weary old woman" comments as he walked by. We later met them coming down when he announced, "I know you. My son ran his car through your fence a few years ago." When I asked him who his son was, I recalled the incident, among many similar over the years. In this case, the son was very polite and even fixed the fence. After chatting a while we also learned that Laurie had taught their son when he was a sixth grader at Farmin School.
So, we all became instant friends and talked about Mickinnick. Last night happened to be this couple's 127th time up the Mickinnick Trail, which opened when partially completed last fall. She used to teach aerobics, and she said walking this trail is better than aerobics. Plus, it offers some spectacular views of Sandpoint and the lake, which weren't ideal with yesterday's smoke-filled air.
Just after leaving them, we arrived at our turnaround point, which is a great lookout atop a steep rock face. Jim thought it might be nice for hang gliding if only someone could get his glider up there. We sat down and talked about how this had been "our" mountain, Greenhorn. We looked down over a vast expanse of what's fast turning into an ugly scene of urban sprawl, especially out Ponderay and Kootenai way.
We marveled how the neat, 25-acre hayfield below---where Harold had put up hundreds of tons of hay over the years and which Mother may sell to a prominent local business---is the greenest piece of earth in the entire valley, even with its eight small blemishes where perk tests for soil samples have been performed. We looked directly to the east of the big field where almost a dozen private hangars housing high-priced planes stand in two rows. These structures occupy the same field where we romped among the Hereford cows or rode our horses as kids and where Jim and his cronies shot off dozens of model rockets on our original 40-acre farm.
I then bragged about how our cute little farm with its pretty red barn stands out in the midst of Sandpoint's fast-disappearing green space. We even called Bill who'd just returned from a week's worth of fire duty and asked him to step out in the lawn. We could actually see him, but he couldn't see us. We also reported in to Mother Tibbs at Colburn who's learning how to use her new birthday cell phone. It was obvious she'd given anything to be with us, but her 84-year-old legs might complain even more than mine.
During this relaxation period upon that lofty stone perch, we siblings also talked about how sad it is to see this valley, which was once a pastoral haven, disappearing to cement, huge buildings and housing developments where-- from that vista---it seems that some buildings are almost stacked on top of each other, like boxes. All the while, we could also observe long strings of cars constantly moving down what were once quiet country roads.
"It will never be the same again," I lamented as we got up, turned around and headed back down the trail on "our" mountain. The return trip really confirmed to me that I was old. My two younger siblings almost ran down that trail, as I carefully selected my steps, knowing the potential of my inborn clumsiness. I did chuckle once, though as I heard Laurie suddenly sliding through the gravel and landing on her rear as she trotted down a steep incline. She chuckled, got up, wiped off the dust and continued her pace.
Laurie and Jim were kind enough to wait for me a few times, but eventually arrived at the trail head a good five minutes before I showed up. Of course, I shouldn't tell that Jim did not exactly observe all the signs that said, "Stay on trail." There was, indeed, a bit of cheating going on, partly in an effort to make like a bear and try to scare Big Sister.
My seventh time up Mickinnick this year was just as hard as all the rest, but for some reason, the masochist in me keeps me returning. Maybe it's cuz it's one of the quiet places left in this community, and because Greenhorn is "our" mountain.