Yes, 'The Descent' is a little overly dramatic for a blog title, I'm well aware.
While sleeping in my bed the temperature went from cold to raging hot. It poured rain all night, the winds howled, and thunder and lightning well into the dawn hours. There were plans to get up at watch the sunrise but the lightning made it unsafe.
By 8 it was time for breakfast. Like dinner, breakfast was made to support lumberjacks or coal miners (or their daughters). Pancakes with syrup, butter, and honey. Fluffy eggs, grits with butter, Canadian bacon, big homemade biscuits with butter and apple butter, coffee, hot chocolate, and maybe something else that I'm forgetting. I wish I had taken pictures of the food at the lodge.
After breakfast we packed and by 10 we were back on the trail. The rain had not stopped and continued to drizzle down the first third of the mountain.
Because the rain had slowed I was able to take a few more pictures than the day before. This was taken at one of the overlooks along the beginning of the trail.
Normally this waterfall is almost entirely dry (supposedly, but I doubt anything is ever almost entirely dry in the Smokies). Notice the wire rope meant to help people along the trail. These were more hopeful on the way down then on the way up the mountain.
This is a picture of the trail in front of me. See how lush and verdant everything is? There were only a few spaces up and down the mountain that weren't entirely like this.
The trip down took about half as long as the trip up but it was challenging in a different way. Coming down does use different muscles. While climbing up I felt my legs working and when I awoke up the next morning I expected some muscle pain but there was none. However, while climbing down whenever we stopped I could feel my legs trembling. I didn't feel it in my thighs so I wasn't entirely sure where it was because thigh pain was all I really expected. The day after coming down the mountain my calves were in crazy, incessant pain for almost three days. I'd never had calf pain from running, pilates, or yoga so I'd never been exposed to how essential calves are for everything and how incredibly irritating it was for them to out of commission.
The trip down was over too soon. By 2 we were back at the trail head and everyone dispersed so quickly. This was perhaps the only part of the trip that I was dissatisfied with, everyone leaving so fast. I wanted to say goodbye or get a picture with the guide, Erik, or at least shake his hand to tell him how sincerely grateful I was that he made the experience so positive and how much I enjoyed myself.
I think last weekend was one of the most satisfying times of my young life. I felt like I pushed myself appropriately and really tested myself. Again, I never felt like I could not finish the hike but there were some moments where I knew it was just a situation of choosing to go on and to not complain and to be positive and cheerful; especially when everyone was cold and wet and hungry.
Lessons I learned:
Ziploc bags, for everything. Everything.
An extra pair of shorts would be helpful.
Those hiking boots were worth the money, sneakers would have been terrible.
The Creator made beautiful places just for me to enjoy, just for me to love, and just to let me feel small.
Physically I am very fit, much fitter than I really thought and much fitter than I look.
I know there will be other lessons that will continue to make themselves known to me in the coming weeks.
We arrived at the lodge around 5pm. After checking in at the office we were shown our accomodations. Our group had two cabins. I was in the second cabin. A woman I met on the trip, Wendy, and I shared the main room, each getting our own twin bed. I thought that was appropriate because we were the only ones on the trip that didn't know anyone else. On either side of our room was another room, each with a set of double bunk beds.
That's right, if I hadn't been super selfish and jumped at the chance for a twin bed I would have had to share a bed with someone I'd only met that morning. Besides the beds in each room, all the rooms were equipped with a gas heater and two kerosene lamps. Wendy and I kept making jokes that little Laura and Mary had it better on Little House on the Prairie than we did.
This is the view from my bed (picture taken without the flash for dramatic effect). Note that one of the lamps is not lit because the wick would never stay high enough to stay lit.
This is the view from my bed with the camera's flash on.
So after claiming my bed it was imperative to get a) warm and b) dry. By the time we get to the lodge the rain had largely stopped but it was still pretty misty since we were, afterall, in a cloud. Everything I had was soaked. My jean shorts, despite the fact that they had been washed before, bled blue dye down my legs giving me a nice bruised look. Not only was I soaking wet but all of my clothes in my pack were soaked too.
When I do something like this again, (or if any of my readers do this) I resolve to pack my clothes in ziploc bags.
Since my jeans and everything in my pack was soaked I decided to put my jeans in front of the radiator, along with all of my clean clothes, put on the one dry shirt I had which also happened to be long-sleeved, and my down vest, and my compression shorts (spandex shorts) for dinner.
Dinner was hearty. A soup course was served first with corn bread (served in a iron skillet!) accompanied by a peach half, water, hot chocolate, coffee, and a $9 bottomless glass of wine. Funny story about the peach: since it was raining so hard we didn't stop again to eat after lunch. I got really hungry but the only thing I could remember from their dinner menu was the peach half. I just kept thinking "I cannot wait to eat that peach half, it is going to be sooo good." I've never been so excited by canned fruit in my life.
After soup and bread the servers brought out beef and gravy, mashed potatoes with this huge puddle of butter in the middle, hot cinnamon apples, green beans, and chocolate chip cookies. I ate and ate and ate.
Does Jillian Michaels know that climbing a mountain is a major calorie torch?
Sunset was at 855, about an hour after dinner. That gave me enough time to rotate my clothes in front of the radiator, get my flashlight, and begin making my way up the mountain to the true top, Cliff Top, to watch sunset.
The view was incredible. It was miraculous but the rain and cloud cover parted ways long enough for a beautiful sunset.
I feel as though I truly savored that sunset. I sunk down into the mountain range slow and purposeful. I tried to soak it in- I was at the top of a mountain! I did it, I climbed a mountain. Me! I knew that I had accomplished something signficant. Even now, almost a week later, I don't think I entirely understand yet what I did on Saturday.
I love this picture; it's my new facebook picture.
After the sunset we used our flashlights to climb down the mountain in the (almost) dark. After that we were so exhausted that by 10pm almost everyone was in bed.
This weekend I achieved a goal that I set about six weeks ago. I worked hard to make sure that I was in the best physical shape. I saw it as this major testament to all of the progress I had made in the past six months to my weight, my health, and my overall sense of well-being.
This weekend I hiked Mt. LeConte.
On Friday my parents, my sister, my dog, and myself drove up to Gatlinburg. We spent the evening at Cades Cove, a family favorite. We drive around the nine mile loop and always look for deer, bear, and anything else we can see. This trip we saw two bears! Or maybe the same bear twice?
On Saturday morning I woke up incredibly early in order to get a shower and to triple check my pack. By 710 my parents and myself were on our way to breakfast of eggs and pancakes. I had to be at the Sugarlands Visitor Center by 9.
We arrived at 815. That's a very typical Worley family move, by the way.
After meandering, meeting other people in the group, and an orientation with the guides we were off to the trailhead by 10. The group was made up of a variety of people, two doctors, some people from Florida like me, two from California, and many from around Tennessee. There was a good chemistry among the group. While climbing up and down the mountain I never felt any tension or stress from other people towards each other. People were almost completely supportive and encouraging, always patient, and more often then not kind and generous. One couple even lent me a trekking pole (an aluminum, adjustable hiking stick meant to give a person a better sense of balance) for the entire trip. One couple was even on their honeymoon!
Also, a note about our guides: a father, Erik, and his daughter, Tara, led us up the mountain. The husband and wife run a hiking guide service called A Walk in the Woods. Their website describes the husband and wife experiencing an overall dissatisfaction with the rat race of corporate America so they found a way to make what they loved, hiking and the Smoky Mountains, into a career. Throughout the trip I found both Erik and Tara to be approachable, kind, positive, and infectiously upbeat.
We hiked up Alum's Cave Bluff Trail; one of about five ways up to Mt. LeConte.
The morning started off great. We made periodic stops to learn about different animals, the water, the trees, and the overall ecosystem of the Smokies.
This picture was taken at one of our first stops. Bridges like this were fairly common when crossing the streams that run down the mountain. It might be hard to see but there is a rail on the right side of the log. Once I crossed the bridge I went left to go through a cavern carved into the rock with a staircase.
A little after noon we stopped for a lunch break. By 1215 we heard thunder, by 1220 there was lightning and by 1230 it was pouring rain.
And it continued to pour the better part of the next five hours.
Because of the rain we didn't take many stops for the rest of the hike up the mountain and I didn't take many pictures.
Despite the rain the trip up the mountain was still amazing with breathtaking vistas, beautiful flora, and the whole time I kept thinking "I am on the side of a mountain!! I am climbing a mountain!"
While I definately felt my heart pumping on the climb up the mountain, I never felt very strained. Because of my exercise and weight loss the entire trip was very accessible to me. Throughout the trip I felt strong, never wondering for a moment whether or not I could do this. The whole time I knew the summit of the mountain was entirely within my reach.
We arrived at the Lodge a little before 5, completley soaked but in overall good spirits.
As a female exerciser I have the unique situation of wearing sports bras every single time I want to do any kind of athletic activity. Some women get away with wearing their Champion bra off the rack from the local Sports Authority or maybe even Target. This post is not for you.
This post is for the women, and we all know who we are, who when looking for a sports bra need something serious. A sports bra from Target is like buying a bottle of Spic n' Span. We need something more along the lines of industrial strength. Something you have to get from ordering out of a catalog or online; something that costs easily triple what a bra at Target costs. Something made specifically with us in mind.
Women of all sizes could benefit from a good sports bra but this is especially important for anyone over a B cup. Yes, a B. If you're anything over that stop kidding yourself and be prepared to invest.
This is a serious bra. It has eyehooks all the way up the front a patented criss cross pattern in the back to keep the material in place and to prevent stretching. It is designed to fit tight and some women complain that when they first wear it they have uncomfortable or restricted breathing- that sensation will fade quickly.
Enell has all sizes but I find that they are especially good for the plus size exerciser who needs special consideration for this purchase.
They run about $60 apiece. Sometimes you can find them cheaper on Amazon but that's rare. Consider this an investment in your physical comfort, health, and if you're more comfortable when exercising you're more likely to stick with it.
What I like about the Enell bra is not only does it prevent movement but it prevents staring. A woman jogging or taking an exercise class with her bosom bouncing, vibrating, and shimmying will be the subject of attention from both men and women. That can make many women, including me, feel awkward and want to leave. Very few women want to be the subject of attention like that when they're trying to exercise.
I don't get paid to make posts like this. I don't get free bras (but hey Enell, if you're reading, I'm not opposed to such sponsorship!). I've just been wearing them for years and will keep buying them for as long as I need them.
Yesterday I went to yoga for the first time in ages and I fell in love with it again. Emily Dorman instructed the class; I've known her for a couple of years and just like every other class I've ever had with her she was kind, encouraging, and very positive. Yoga is a way of life for Emily. Yesterday's class reminded me that many of my goals with exercise have very little to do with weightloss and while the majority of this blog is about weightloss often fitness and weightloss have very little to do with one another.
So I thought I'd make a list! A list of reasons why I enjoy exercise that have nothing to do with calories burned, pounds lost, or smaller pants sizes.
1) It makes me strong- building strength gives me better posture, makes everyday activities like carrying groceries easier, and gives me greater stamina.
2) Cameraderie. I like zumba and other classes becauses the women at my gym are my friends. We get through the challenges together. We build each other up, so to speak.
3) Solitude. Running gives me a sense of aloneness that I do enjoy which is probably why I sometimes crave it.
4) Energy- the more I exercise the better I feel overall.
5) Mobility. The is probably the most important one that people forget. I don't want to exercise for a few years I want to have mobility for a lifetime. Yoga and pilates are especially designed to enhance that. I want to be an 80 year old woman that can walk up my steps or tend to my garden, etc. I want mobility my whole life and exercise increases the likelihood that this will happen.
So there's a list, a very short list, of why I exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss.
One of the ways I like to make myself feel more like an athlete is by buying myself gear. New shoes, a fancy sports bra, and in this case: a Road ID Elite. The Road ID is a bracelet (although you can get it other forms) with your personal information on it in case there is an emergency.
The ID was originally created with endurance athletes in mind. Endurance athletes can spend hours alone logging their miles in on the roads and trails. Safety is a primary concern- accidents or a medical emergency make identification a real priority. The idea behind the ID is that it will speak for you when you cannot. If someone was hit by a car or worse, how would emergency responders know who she was and who to contact on her behalf? The ID is supposed to remedy this because most runners and bikers do not carry their wallets or other IDs with them.
The Road ID elite has a "rubberized band with a watch style clasp." It is designed to be worn in all situations and transition from biking on the road to work or a date.
Overall I'm a big fan. The cost is $29.99 for the elite; which is comparable to a medic alert bracelet but unlike a medic alert bracelet, which only alerts responders to a physiological condition like an alergy or high blood pressure, the Road ID provides text with your name, your spouse or parents' phone number, any medical condition, etc. It is this text that makes the Road ID more valuable than other forms of alert IDs. It also provides some peace of mind knowing that if anything were to happen someone would call my parents.
For $19.99 you can buy a Road ID Original that is made of nylon. I think this would be great for kids to wear but probably not for adults and the style does actually look childish.
My only complaint is that I found it difficult to size it to my wrist without the help of someone else. It'd be nice if they came in different sizes. It totality I think this is a great purchase.