First Hike with the Future Wife

I think when you are dating, it is easier to realize that someone is incompatible with you rather than if things will work out if you stay together. So how do you decide if someone is right for you? It helps if you have some common interests. I had just jettisoned a 5-year relationship because I felt we were incompatible in the long run. Her mother was sure we were incompatible in the short run and was quite relieved when I took my exit. I eased the pain of the pre-breakup by hiking and backpacking more often, because I knew that she would never go backpacking or into the woods for any extended period of time. After all, there are bugs out there. It worked. Soon, she was even more disenchanted with me and I, on the other hand, was beginning to like the woods better than her. And so it ended. It may have been a bit messier than it sounds, but it did end.

So when a new girlfriend and I became serious, I knew it was time to see what was what. When I asked her about camping, a look of fear and dread darkened her lovely face. It seems that her father had taken them camping and it was an unmitigated disaster; from the leaky tent he had picked up off someone’s lawn before the garbage men got it, to the weather which was a rainy deluge for 4 days. So my innocent question about camping elicited a response of fear and loathing. Not to be deterred, I soothed her fears and told her that we would start small, one night at a time, and then only if she wanted to do it. But first she needed to become comfortable in the woods and we would do that by taking short hikes in the local parks. She had a skeptical look, but she was willing to try. I was beginning to fall in love.

So with great expectations and high hopes, we set out on that first hike early one fall morning. The weather was cool and crisp and the temperature had gone below freezing the night before. The leaves were at peak and the colors were truly amazing. The sky was as blue as a sky can get and there was nary a cloud in the sky. We drove to Harriman State Park in NYand got out of the car. Harriman is a great place to hike. There are a multitude of trails, and you could hike there for years without ever repeating a hike. It is also a very short drive from where we live. There are old iron mines, old towns, abandoned home sites, cemeteries, lakes and much more. It is the perfect park.
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We arrived early, to beat the crowds. Parking was easy and we were on the trail within minutes of parking. We climbed the first hill and then a mountain. I looked back at my date and she seemed enthused. “This is great”, I thought.  I had planned a strenuous hike with the thought that I would put her to the test early and not drag this out. Up and over another mountain we went. No matter how fast I went she was dogging my heels. This was exciting and made me hike even faster. I remember thinking that “she hikes and she’s cute.” I had better be careful, because this might be the one.

We climbed up on a ridge and followed it for a while before it began to slightly descend.  The ridge switched from a brown dirt path to a spine of rock. We were making good time with a brisk pace. Gradually the spine ran out and some thoughtful trail maintainer had put a rock step in place to ease the step down off the ridge. The next step was into a few leaves plastered on the ground. As I stepped down onto the leaves I saw a glint of ice in the leaves. A cautionary thought flashed, too late, through my brain. It seems that in the frigid temperatures the night before, the leaves had frozen to the ground. Now, at about 10:00 in the morning, that ice had partially melted. It was slippery…very slippery. When my foot hit the formerly frozen leaves, it shot out from under me as if the leaves had been greased.

I saw, for the briefest instant, blue sky, as I began my flight. I also noticed that my feet were at one point higher than my head. Never a good thing when you are hiking. The next thing I knew, my back was slamming down to earth with a big whumping sound and a whooshing noise that came from me as all the air was forced from my lungs by the jarring impact. The force of the fall was startling to say the least, but I had managed to tuck my head so it did not smack the ground when I fell.

As I lay there, I tried to collect my thoughts, but the lack of oxygen and the stunning force of the fall seemed to be impairing my cognitive abilities. Just then, my date and future wife came to my rescue. In a flash she was kneeling by my side and asking if I was OK. The only problem was, that when she knelt beside me, she placed one of her knees on my chest. This was inadvertent. She swears it was, but the net effect was that I could not draw any air into my lungs. I gasped helplessly.

The gasping concerned her even more and she leaned in closer. This of course exacerbated my lack of oxygen as her knee pressed harder on my chest. I croaked some gibberish at her in a desperate attempt to get her off my chest. Of course, this worried her even more and she leaned in even closer. I began to get tunnel vision and I was beginning to get alarmed. In desperation I grabbed her shirt with both hands and pulled her closer to me. It took all the strength I had and I know she thought I was going to impart some dying wish to her or give her the car keys.

Instead, as I drew her close to my face with both arms, I summoned all my remaining strength and threw her off me and as far as I could. “Eeeeaaaarrrrggghhh”, I shouted/gasped as I tossed her aside. That guttural sound I uttered as I threw her off me was, as she told me later, “quite frightening.” Suddenly I could breathe. My vision began to clear. I looked at my date and could see the look of confusion and fear in her face. She had no idea that she had her knee on my chest and the distress it caused. Within seconds of being able to breathe, I told her that I had just had the wind knocked out of me and I was going to be fine, but that I might need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in order to fully recover. She complied and I knew I had found the girl for me.

We will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this October. I think we will go for a hike.


Happy Trails.

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