sheep on a mountainside, old age, Jonah

Getting Old; Sigh. And, Jonah on the Art Loeb Trail

I decided to hike today.

I did the Art Loeb trail in the Pisgah National Forest, about two seconds from my house. It’s a 30 mile trail that mostly winds up ridges and peaks, but I only did an hour of it. I have no clue how far I hiked. I was having a massive, peak-10 panic attack, and I was walking it off, as they say.

I did that trail (pretty much straight up) instead of the old people’s trail (pretty much not-straight up) that follows the Davidson River. That’s what I call it, the “old people’s trail,” because it’s easy. Gentle incline. Nice views of the river. Kids riding bikes. Elderly couples walking side-by-side, doing their daily walk.

But, let’s stop there. With the elderly couples doing their daily walk. Because that’s when my panic attack started.

See, to get to the Art Loeb trail, I have to walk a ways on the old people’s trail. So, I was passing elderly couples in jogging suits right and dang left.

Elderly couples look like elderly toddlers to me.

Passing them, I could hear the doctor’s voice in the background. “I want you to walk every day, and do it outside, so you’ll get some fresh air. And, don’t forget to eat your heart healthy diet.” Like talking to children. With a sing-song-y voice.

That’s when the panic happened, because I am not so far away from the jogging suits, daily walks, and soft foods, myself. I’m getting old.

With the panic at mock-10, I took my right up the Art Loeb trail, telling myself, “You’re not old, yet. You don’t have to stick with the old people’s trail. You can do this trail.” Which is so much cooler than a jogging suit. Talking to yourself as you’re panting your way up a mountain.

What happened next, I’m blaming on Aggie, not the fact that I’ll soon be buying jogging suits. I fell across a tree-root. I’d probably walked about 25 minutes, and Aggie pulled too hard on the leash, and the tree root jumped out at me, and down I went. I was out cold, and when I came too, Aggie’s nose was touching my nose. I thought we were on the floor at home. Except we weren’t. We were on the cold, very hard ground of the forest. The movie, Into the Woods, came to mind. I had no clue where I was.

Still lying on the ground, I grabbed my phone to check the time and my compass, because knowing if I was north or south was so going to help me. And, because I am getting old, and my head was throbbing, I could barely make out the time. I had to ask Siri, who replied, “It’s 1:34 p.m. Cinthia.” (Thank the Lord for Siri.)

Good. I had time to figure out where I was before it got dark. I stood up. Everything seemed fine. Nothing major but a bump on my head. Then I remembered why I was on the Art Loeb trail, and promptly repented because being face down on a trail in the middle of a National Forest with no clue which direction you came from is a real reason to panic. The jogging suits were looking pretty good.

The good news is, Aggie was sick of hiking (it wasn’t the sort of outing she’d hoped for), and wanted to head home. She’s got good direction sense, so I followed her, my own sense returning as we hiked. Pretty soon, I remembered where we were and I said, out loud, “Oh yeah, we’re on the Art Loeb trail.” Which again, is so much cooler than the old folks in their jogging suits on the easy trail, if anyone heard me.

Then I got to thinking about some advice I got from a friend once I started living alone. He said, “You need a 2 a.m. person.”

That got me to wondering, if I had hurt myself, and couldn’t walk back to my car, who would I call? I checked my phone. Yes, I had full bars, but the battery was almost dead. So, who would I text?

My list was super picky. It went like this: My ex is the best choice because he’s a forester, would know where I was if I texted him, and would know what to do. He’s got com-MAN sense. But, who knows? If he read my text, he might think, oh good, no more alimony. So, he was out. Next, I considered my boss who lives just a few minutes away, and knows the area because he’s that rare bird, a native. But, because I text him all the time, there was the chance he’d figure it was a work thing, and decide to wait till Monday to read it, thinking, I’ll see what she wants later. Then he’d go eat sushi at the new sushi bar in town, and I’d die from exposure while waiting for him to finish.

My sisters were out, because they’re too far away, and besides none of them could hike up that trail even if they knew where it was. And, they’d think I had butt-texted them, and skip the whole text entirely.

A couple of my girlfriends were possibilities, but they all had family in town, and well, we have rules regarding family being in town. Don’t bother us while they’re here. So, they were out.

Finally, I remembered a guy I used to work with. He’s a bit like my ex. Knows the area. He and his wife are hikers. So, there’s a good chance he’d know the trail I was on. He lives close by. Perfect! And, since I never text him, unlike my boss, he’d probably read my text, which I envisioned as only saying, “Art Loeb trail.” (I am nothing if not dramatic.) I figured he would figure out my cryptic message, tell his wife, and the two of them would come find me. I think she went to medical school, so bonus! He was fast becoming my guy if I ever fell in the woods again, and ended up with a broken leg or some such.

Except, no, not really. Because after running the whole scenario through my head, I had to ask myself this very real question: Would I text him? And, then suffer the utter humiliation I would feel because I had to ask for help, or would I die on that mountain-top to avoid embarrassment.

Pride reared its head a second time in less than 24 hours. I don’t like asking for help, and maybe that’s one reason I don’t like the thought of getting old: What if I need help? What if I need to ask for help?

Here’s where the Jonah part comes in. If you’ve ever read the story of Jonah, you know he’s a big, whiny baby who sits on a hillside overlooking Nineveh, refusing God’s help. God just saved an entire city of evil people, but God can’t save Jonah because Jonah won’t let God. So, not only is he on a mountaintop, hot and miserable, he is helpless while refusing help. I’m going to call that pride, and sit down beside Jonah on the mountaintop to die.

I made my way back down the mountain (cautiously), while thinking that if pride hadn’t taken hold, and caused me to panic, I could have skipped the whole Art Loeb thing, and enjoyed a leisurely hike along the river, without the knot on my head. Which is the moral of this little tale. Don’t be a knot-head. When the time comes, buy the jogging suit, and enjoy the fresh air.

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