As I have mentioned in several blog posts, I am quite out of shape. Simply put, I just don’t exercise. Many people I have spoken with rave about the great endorphin rush they feel after exercising, but I personally have never really noticed this. I’ve definitely tried to exercise, but running hurts my knees and spending time in the gym honestly just bores me. Although I don’t exercise, I still consider myself active as walking is my primary method of transportation. That being said, I live in San Jose, CA for the better part of the year where the land is as flat as possible.

Despite my possibly exaggerated walking prowess, I find myself constantly physically challenged while hiking for the good of this project. Hiking is the Goliath to my Dave. It is a strikingly powerful beast and although I eventually defeat it in the end, it is excruciatingly difficult. Actually, it isn’t so much the act of hiking that I struggle with, but the beast that is named “elevation gain.” In my case, there is indeed a “mountain high enough” to keep me from doing things. If the hikes we ever took were flat, I could hike for miles without any complaint. Alas, we always seem to do hikes that involve hundreds of feet of elevation gain in short distances.

Hikes with steep elevation gain can transform a test of physical strength into a test of emotional strength. I am certain this may sound overly dramatic to some people, but I generally consider myself to be overly dramatic. As I climb these difficult trails, I feel my breathing metamorphose into sharp shallow panting, my muscles ache and my thoughts turn to Shakespeare’s most theatrical lines. “What devil art thou that dost torment me thus?” “Vile Earth to Earth resign. End motion here.” “By a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.” Did I mention my tendency to overreact? I didn’t even look up those quotes; I just knew them. But in all honestly, I have found some of our hikes to be that difficult. The worst part is that while I’m exerting all my energy to get up a hill, there is always some random guy in jeans and a sweatshirt casually strolling up the hill as though he is simply walking to get the newspaper from his front porch. If you happen to be that guy, I am so envious of you.

Now you are probably wondering, “Is the sole purpose of this journal entry to create an outlet for you to complain?” The answer is no, though I do love a good venting session. Amidst my physical and emotional struggles with elevation gain, I always find salvation in some form. Seeing beautifully large birds soar gracefully across the sky above me, hearing the somewhat jarring whistle squeak of hidden marmots, feeling the occasional cool breeze blow through my hair and watching the land on which I once stood slowly shrink as I climb higher, are all the encouragements I need to continue.  And when I finally can see the top of the hill that I am climbing, I feel my muscles strengthen as they eagerly push me towards the top and I am flooded with an endorphin rush that no amount of time at a gym could give me. It is also good to mention that when a hike has significant elevation gain, there is almost always a stunning panoramic view at the top making the struggle justified.

Hiking is as hard as it is gratifying. It has given me the opportunity to test myself, overcome challenges and trick myself into exercising. I may never be considered super physically fit or be a contestant on American Ninja Warrior, but I have found a form of exercise that is fulfilling and fun.

Claire Parchem, SCA Intern

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