I had in my inbox 289 e-mails and more than that in my spam box when I returned from my five day adventure called 6th Grade Camp (aka boot camp). Not many schools have camp for the whole week, maybe this one is being punished—or I am. After we got back, my daughter and I both got sick—another week gone. Two weeks of no writing.
This is what I knew in advance: There would be hiking, lots of it. This was what I didn’t know: it would all be vertical, like in straight up, like in so steep the trails had railroad ties for steps, otherwise you’d need a rope.
Day one: We arrive in the Santa Cruz mountains at noon and freeze to death while climbing three flights of stairs multiple times (no less than ten) to unload luggage. The stairs alone would have me sore the next day, but I’m awarded an immediate hike afterwards that has me wheezing and gasping and clutching my chest, only to find out the camp counselors call that a walk and is, in fact, not a hike. The first hike is scheduled for after dinner—immediately after (every activity described in these passages is immediately after the last and just before the next. In boot camp, there are no breaks).
After dinner, we embark on what I call the Hell Hike. Also a night hike, meaning the sub zero day temperatures would now drop the after dark chill factor to a thousand below. Hell Hike is one mile straight up that due to the proximity of eating and violent strenuous exercise has some vomiting and me lagging so far behind I get separated from the rest and nearly get lost in the dark. Thanks to the horkers, I can listen my way back to the group.
Day two: Can’t walk. Every muscle is sore and my lungs collapsed but I’m under the gun. Chaperones can’t quit; there are no replacements, and only a tragic accident could free us of our obligations—which I’m searching for constantly. Every cliff beckons me to fall off it; every river invites to whisk me away. I turn logs for snakes to bite me; I run in the open during lightning strikes.
In the distance I hear the sounds of nature and a cry for help coming from all chaperones. The bark of howls triggers an echo-like pattern until we are all close enough to embrace and support, physically, each other. None of us had ever experienced such pain of this magnitude, this Hell Hike hangover. We commiserate among ourselves as to what we have gotten ourselves into. We make vows; we cry foul; we say “never” and we quit, and then right after our eight AM breakfast we separate into our groups. And Hell Hike begins. I lag behind and disrupt the pace and remain hopeful our Naturalist has a sense of humor.
After lunch and on my third Hell Hike, I lose my own sense of humor. There should be a balance; one should not have to endure three consecutive Hell Hikes. I’m not supposed to die this way, via heart explosion. My heart beats so fast that if you were looking at it, it would look still, faster than visual detection, then we stop at the top where it drops to levels between comatose and death.
After dinner we have another hike where the Naturalist thinks it will be cool to do a solo hike without flashlights under a zero moon. The good news is it’s so cold the air ices my sore muscles to numbness. We use our flashlights to get to our destination then she sends us off, one by one, alone, in the forest, in the dark, without flashlights. As a chaperone, and a parent, I feel some unease about the complete disappearance of those trusted under my care. I use my newly flared ulcer to keep me warm. Are we having fun yet? Why, yes, the kids are.
Day three: I scoot down the three flights of stairs. Good news is it’s easy to slide when the stairs are slick. From rain. After breakfast, we don our rain slickers for the first muddy hike of the day. My escape plans, at this point, move up to the next level. No longer am I thinking injuries of the self-inflicted nature but something more outward, like assault or homicide. My imminent arrest is just one of many possibilities I entertain.
After lunch we embark on what I call Hell Hike II. Not as non-stop, straight up as Hell Hike but longer. Much longer. And still heavy on the incline. And muddy. And slippery. And still raining.
After dinner they give us a break from night hikes. We have to dance instead. Barnyard dance, and yes, chaperones are needed for that too.
Day four: I hurt from every joint in my body, but consider a deliberate fall down the stairs anyway. Crying causes my nose to run, which is already on a slow drip from the cold weather, so I refrain from public displays of self-pity. Besides, crying’s contagious to all the other comrades who clearly suffer as much, if not more, than I am.
Today is more of the same: Three hikes, including nighttime Hell Hike—which still isn’t any easier and is still inducing some vomiting.
Day five: Last day and the warmest. We leave the mountains and go to the beach where I’m finally in my element—ass in sand.
Summary: five days of extreme, intense exercise that ranged from six to eight hours of hiking—except last day, which consisted of multiple trips up and down the stairs to haul luggage—bad food, no computer, no phone, no nothing, not even protection from the elements.
So guess how much weight I lost.
Wait. Before you guess, just in case you are new to my blog, here’s the low-down: I write. I sit all day, and I write. I get a twenty-minute zero-incline walk a day before my butt is planted in the chair for the duration. Since I don’t buy food I don’t like, there is a tendency to eat more at home than, say, fat camp.
So here again. Camp=six to eight hours of advanced hiking and fewer intake of calories. Home=twenty minutes of entry-level walking and calories galore.
Now guess how much weight I lost. How much would you lose in the same situation?
Leave your guesses in the comments and I’ll reveal the answer in the next post.