Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

When A Friday Stroll Becomes A Monday Workout.

Posted on | May 22, 2015 | 1 Comment

The garden needed to be mowed and weeded.  The tomatoes needed to be pruned and staked.  The peas needed to be harvested.  But after heavy thunderstorms yesterday, everything needed to dry out.  So I leashed up the dogs to enjoy a stroll with morning temperatures in the 60’s.

“Isn’t a beautiful day?”  I asked the dogs as we cruised, windows down, to the mountain trail.

“So nice and cool!”  I exclaimed to them as we meandered through the deserted first loop of the trail, rolling Piedmont forest and gentle slopes.

We passed a lone fisherman at the pond.  He smiled and touched his cap.

“Sure is a shame everyone else’s gotta work, huh?”  he smirked.

“I know, right,” I grinned.

The dogs and I rounded the corner and headed up the backside of the mountain.  That’s when it happened.

Right on the steep part of the trail.

Imagine chopped off railroad ties set straight into the mountainside for stairs.

Narrow, rocky, switchbacks running through mountain laurel in attempt to break up the gradient.

Right there at the beginning of the real work, the main exertion, the part that becomes “exercise”, we stumbled into the back of a group of students and their teachers on a hike.

Oh no.  Don’t do it, I thought as the last teacher in line turned around at the sound of approaching footsteps.

Please don’t do it. He smiled and began to speak.

“Oh!  Good morning,” he said and began to turn back around.

Whew! I started to pass at a casual pace.

That was a close one, I thought as we moved in front of him on the trail.

And that’s when he did it.

“Kids!” he called out.  “Someone comin’ through.  Let them pass!”

Obediently, the straggling line of children stopped and looked back.  From the base of the mountain I saw them stretched out before me, up the stairs, and vanishing into the trees.  As one, they stepped off the path.  And waited.

Son of a …..

But there was nothing else to do.  An entire classroom of kids was waiting patiently for me to begin my ascent.  To pass them so they could continue their hike.  As I took a few hesitant steps, I searched my brain desperately for a plausible reason to turn around.  Zilch.  I put my foot on the first railroad tie and heaved myself up, hoping for a little extra forward tug, a helpful bit of momentum, from the dogs at the end of their leashes.  Nope.  I tried to move toward the edge of the trail, finding the slope in the leaf debris is a littler easier to navigate then the jolting upright of the stairs.  But that’s where the kids were standing, off to the side.  Watching.  Waiting.

There was nothing to do but start hustling my old fat self up the stairs, in full view of a mountainside of vigorous energetic youth.

Oh, for Pete’s sake, I thought as I passed the first group, feeling my thigh muscles wake up in alarm.

I’ve already walked the first part of this trail, I wanted to point out as the second group watched me pass with their young, healthy, skinny, and pitying eyes.

Oh bless you! I thought when a girl in the third group asked if she could pet the dogs.  I stopped and nodded gratefully.  Because talking would have involved an embarrassing amount of panting.  I loved that little girl.  So brave to want to pet a pair of 100 pound German shepherds, teeth glinting in their open smiles.  So polite to ask before reaching out to touch them.  So sweet to scratch gently behind their ears.

We had rested for only a few blissful seconds, maybe 8, certainly no more than 10, although it was hard to count over the sound of my heartbeat whooshing in my ears, when one of the boys patted Luna on the head definitively.

“Nice meeting you, dog.  Have a good walk.”  The boy stepped back and, taking his cue, the other kids did, too.  Giving us room to resume our uphill trek.

I hated that little boy.  Ugh, boys.  Why are boys like that?  Why??!!!

We moved on and the group of children thinned as we finished the stairs and started on the switchbacks.

Thank goodness, I thought.  Just a few more to pass.

But the first children in the line had gotten bored while awaiting our approach.  They had expanded along the path, kicking rocks and pulling on low-hanging branches.  Some of them even inched slowly forward along the trail, like a perpetual vanishing point.

Image result for emoji, sweatyStop! my brain cried.   On behalf of all that you value, every Xbox and PlayStation, for snapchat and Spotify, and all the emojii in the world, children, stop so I can freaking pass already!!!

And then, finally, we were clear.  Just a few 100 feet from the mountain overlook and we overtook the last child.  The dogs turned toward the bench where we usually sit and pause to enjoy the view.

“No way,”  I urged them.  “Keep moving.”  I could hear the kids resuming their walk behind us.

All I could think of was that when the trail emerged from the overlook, it was all downhill.  The only thing keeping us on point now was the fact that the kids were laughing and cutting up as they advanced, stopping to investigate bugs on the ground and buds on the trees. There was no way we could stay ahead of vigorous energetic youth on the downhill side if they caught up to us.  I’d have to jog to keep in front of them. Or run?  I couldn’t really remember what running felt like.  But my vague recollection of my lungs being on fire while simultaneously being stabbed in the side by an invisible poker spurred me on.

“Go, go, go,”  I told the dogs and we kept up a steady pace until we hit the gravel downhill path.  And then we hoofed it quickly the rest of the way down, instead of putting on the brakes to prevent shin splints.  No time for a cool down, people.  Not with vigorous energetic youth breathing down my neck.

When we finally entered the parking areas, I spotted the school activity bus parked in the shade.  I let the dogs into the car and flopped down in my seat.

“Jeez,” I huffed in exhaustion to the dogs.  “CrossFit ain’t gonna nothin’ on the Carolina Friends School.”

When we got home, I resigned myself to stretching my calves and thighs since I’d had more of a workout than a walk.  And I still had mowing and weeding ahead of me for the day.

“Stay off me while I’m down, ” I informed Luna and Orion.  “Don’t be slobbering all over me while I’m on the floor stretching.”

I didn’t really need to worry.  The dogs were done with their chores for the day.

I know Jesus promised us heaven as our eternal reward.  But can there really be a better reward than to return as the family dog?  I mean, really?


One Response to “When A Friday Stroll Becomes A Monday Workout.”

  1. Lisa D
    May 23rd, 2015 @ 4:02 am

    Several thoughts come to mind: 1 – Why didn’t you call me???? 2 – I knew it had to be a private school as public would never allow children to “spread out” on the trail or pick things up at their own pace! 3 – I think you exaggerate your lack of fitness/slowness on those stairs 🙂 Glad you had a great workout!

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