Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Different Kind of Challenge

Thomas Divide Trail - GSMNP
July 30, 2012

Last Monday, on my birthday, my friend and I hiked a long 11.4 miles across the Thomas Divide trail to its intersection with Newton Bald Trail, past backcountry campsite #52 to the intersection with Mingus Creek Trail.  It was the second time I'd done this hike and when we reached the right turn seen in the picture above, I KNEW what lay around the bend.   Although it was only the second time I'd been this far, I'd hiked earlier portions of Thomas Divide trail several times and knew it to be a fairly gentle journey of ups and downs.  But the memory of this extreme turn to the right was crystal clear and I'd been watching for it.  I knew when we walked around this bend in the trail, we were headed STEEPLY downward for almost one full mile.  This also meant we would be headed STEEPLY upward on the return trip for almost one full mile.  By the time we reached this point coming back, fatigue would surely be coming into play, a factor that can be blamed for many hiker accidents.

Those who hike know, that in some ways, downhill stretches can be as challenging as uphill and those who don't hike, need to understand that to be true.  I had enjoyed every moment of the hike thus far, but in the back of my mind, I was watching and waiting for the CURVE I knew was coming.
Gentle stretch of sun-drenched trail not long before "THE CURVE"

 This trail, not known for "views" afforded this one cool glimpse framed between the trees!

We rounded that curve and the downhill stretched out in front of us just as I remembered.  And I have no hero story to tell about it being easier this time than last.  It was tough on the knees going down and seemed to never end.   It was tough on the lungs and every other part of my body coming back up because I was tired, hot, knew it was coming and more than ready to have it behind me.  

You may have already realized where this analogy is going.   And you'd be exactly right.   I feel as if I'm standing at the point of the trail in the first picture FROZEN and TERRIFIED to take another step, much less walk around that curve because I know what's around the bend.  And that word is MAINTENANCE!

I've been down this "trail" before.   I've reached the "bend" in the trail before.   I've even made it successfully through the initial downhill stretch before.  I've spent time resting and relaxing with the euphoria of being at goal weight before.

 Great Smoky Mountains National Park Backcountry Campsite #52.   
Where we ate lunch and "rested" before the long trek back to the car.

I rounded that "bend" in the journey toward goal weight, officially entered the "maintenance" phase and boy, did the trail ever head downhill quickly.   But I saw it coming and just as I knew that the trail challenge was coming last Monday, I knew the first week of maintenance was going to drop steeply downward for a long, long mile.  

In my life (and probably in most of yours), feeding someone or "treating" someone with food, represents love and celebration.  I've known all along that reaching my goal near my birthday would come with some hefty challenges to overcome immediately.  This week alone, between family and friends, I am being "treated" to six birthday lunches/dinners.  I already know of two that will happen NEXT week!  Yep, it's going to be a long trek down that steep, slippery, slope!  In about half of the instances, I've been given a choice - the other half started with "I want to take you to __________ for your birthday."  

Only after next Friday evening (that's the 10th) will I be able to "rest" and hopefully resume what I hope will become my new normal.  That's when I have to climb back UP that hill while I adjust and then maybe, someday fairly soon, I'll be able to look up and see that BEND in the trail back to the LEFT signifying the top of that climb where I can relax a teeny, tiny bit and enjoy the gentle ups and downs of familiar territory!

A beautiful fungus growing on a fallen tree trunk and our "surprise" 
of the day, Fire Pink, which should've been long gone by the end of July!

I am so very, very grateful for every last one of you.   I probably don't reiterate that often enough.   But right now, I am holding on with sheer dependence on those of you who are currently maintaining and are available to "walk" with me for the next few months.  I need you!  I promise to do the same for those of you coming behind me!

FYI - Here's a sampling of my upcoming "birthday" dining schedule!   Some of these places are local, but if you've ever eaten anything at any of them that you really enjoyed and felt good about eating, I'd love some suggestions.  Or just for fun, check out the menu's and let me know what you'd order if YOU were being treated to these places.

Tonight - Abuelo's
Friday night - Calhoun's On the River
Saturday night - Bonefish Grill

This has probably been one of the most delightful birthdays I've ever had.  Don't perceive any of what I've written today as complaining.  Between your birthday wishes, messages from friends and family representing every aspect of my life from elementary school to the present, a wonderful day of hiking ON my birthday, a great day in the mountains with Bill yesterday and all these upcoming celebrations, all I can say is how can one girl be so lucky and so blessed?

Birthday Girl - July 30, 2012


  1. Walk carefully and enjoy the view, in life and in celebration. Happy, happy birthday!

  2. Maintenance is just a slippery road. I don't know if I even like the word maintenance because it sort of implies that you just need a tune up here and there. Maybe maintenance is that way for some people. It's not that way for me. Probably why I still struggle with 10 pounds.

    You know, even if you don't always make the wisest of choices at these dinners, you certainly have the skill set to get back on track afterwards.

  3. Oh Sharon, I'm so happy for you --and your ability to do a hike THAT long... The longest I ever took was 9 miles ---and it about killed me... Wish I were younger than 70!!!!! Dang it... I struggle these days with 3-4 milers...Guess the ole body is just worn out!!!! BUT--I'll keep on keeping on the best I can.

    Sounds like you had a marvelous birthday --with more celebrations to come. Hopefully, since I am still dieting, I will only have ONE birthday dinner this year... ha


  4. Isn't hiking the best? Happy birthday to ya.

  5. Whew! That is one long hike! And I agree--the downhill is harder than the uphill. On our steep part of the road, I zig-zag back and forth to make it less steep. I don't think you can do that on a trail.

    So just for fun, I checked out the menu of the Foothill Mining Co. I'v never ordered tuna at a restaurant before, but that seared tuna sounds delicious. I'd probably play it safe and order the Cedar Plank Salmon, which also sounds delicious.

    Yes, relaxing is not the term I would apply to maintenance... In fact, relaxing is what I was doing when I regained some. I like Lynn's word: Vigilance.

  6. Happy Birthday. You always , always have a choice and you are driving your weight maintnence car. Good luck and steer clear of triggers, moderation strategies, and high carb stuff. Are you going to do a 90 day opt out? I totally recommend it. The best way to stay on the straight and narrow and keep the weight maintnence practice in check. IMO

    Whatever you did last time at maintnence and gained, don't do that this time. I know you know that, but it's a good reminder.

  7. I am worried about maintenance too, even though I've got a ways to go before I get there. I'll be looking to you for wisdom. (no pressure!)

    I hope your birthday was great!!

  8. Wow, what a hike! You are truly blessed to be able to hike such a challenging trail and also to have so many people clamoring to take you out for your birthday. My way of dealing with any culinary overindulgence is to simply cut back considerably in the days afterward, but everybody has a different way of dealing, for sure. The great thing is---you know now what works for you and you have the power to put it into practice. And that is really wonderful!

  9. Wow, great analogy!
    * pondering *
    Just catching up on my blog reading...