Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Part II - The Descent

Boy, I'm not sure where I'm going to go with Part II. The descent is maybe still too fresh in my mind and I haven't thoroughly processed it all.

I think I'll start with a picture of the crater - can you see the steam?? This mountain is ALIVE!!

Unfortunately my legs were not. See...I had pretty much imagined that as long as I made it to the top of St. Helens, I would be fine. Downhill? That's my favorite part of hikes. It's the present with the bow on top for all your hard work of the climb.

Ummm...Julie, meet snow.

I could never have imagined how the second half of this hike would turn out. As we started descending, I realized that looking down a mountain is a lot different than looking up. On the way up, I was concentrating on reaching that top in the very far distance, moving forward, a step at a time. Often, I was pleased that I did have to keep my eyes on my feet, because it seemed less daunting than realizing how far we had to go when I would look up, but I was never afraid.
going down, I realize just how far up we are and I picture myself falling down the hill, sliding and not being able to stop. Taking out people on my way down. I COMPLETELY FREAK MYSELF OUT.

In addition, I'm trying to follow the simple advice given multiple times by both Ron and Dad:
Lean back.
Dig your heals in.
Keep your toes pointed up.
Use your poles.

oh boy.

My legs do not want to listen to my mind telling them what to do. I can't seem to get my toes in the air and my heels down. My legs are rubber. My tummy is empty. I'm outta gas...
and...we've only got about 3.5 hours to go.

I had heard that people glissade down St. Helens

but I've never actually done it before. I was game until I actually got on the mountain. When I accidentally started to glissade when I took my first fall (or third fall...they all started to blend in together) I didn't go too far, or too fast and it seemed not such a bad way to go down the hill. Most people had either carried in their skis or snowboards (or in the picture you saw yesterday, their mother's ironing board) or were glissading. So smart of them!!

But like I said, I freaked myself out. It just seemed too easy to go flying too fast and end up going off a little cliff to my death...or not being able to stop and just speeding down the hill and wiping out as many Mothers Day hikers as I could.

It was truly frustrating. I felt like such a baby. My legs wouldn't work right, I left my bravery at home, and all I could do was watch Ron flying down the hill without a care in the world and Dad sure-footed as anyone ever has been, just methodically making his way down...
until they had to stop to look up the mountain to make sure I was still coming.

I would never have believed how hard it was to work with that snow. It had softened just enough in most places for the heel in/toes up step to work pretty good, but then you would make that 6th step where your foot just wouldn't penetrate the top layer and I would falter and start to slide and lose control and I guess that's where my problem was. They told me to lose a little control...go with it, slip a little, let the snow help me. It just felt like loss of control and I didn't like it one bit.

Nope, not one little bit.

I really just could not believe how ridiculously long it took to get down the mountain: 3 hours and 50 minutes. Total round trip time (not including the summit lunch) was 8 hours and 40 minutes. At the end, I was making Dad giggle so much with my noodle legs and trying to stay upright and I was so hungry that the snow started to look like mashed potatoes to me and I realized that even though I was feeling a little sheepish, it was all worth it...
...although I did turn around my summit thank-you of having the best Mothers Day ever into a whine to the boys that I couldn't believe they made me do this on Mother's Day, it really was one of those days that I'll always remember with great happiness and pride.

I could seriously write pages and pages about all the great stuff about going up...and the great and not so great stuff about going down, but I think I'll leave it at this ~
It was a fantastic day. It felt good to push myself. I'm not as strong as I would like to think. I'm not as brave as I would like to think. That's all ok. It's all an adventure, this life. God gave us this incredible earth and the people that inhabit it and for this adventure I thank Him!


Anonymous said...

Always love your take on an adventure. You tell it so well I feel like I was there.

Susan said...

Julie - congratulations! And Happy Mother's Day! I'm so proud of you. :) Susan