I signed up to participate in a guided hike this weekend. I usually don't do well in group settings, because I'm independent and tend to do my own thing. I've never been one to follow the crowd. I can be a team player in situations where an important goal needs to be met, and if others are not doing their part, I tend to just take over and do it all myself so that the goal is met. That's why I've gotten burnt out with so many jobs I've held. Most people want to do the bare minimum or nothing at all, just like horses. I'm more ambitious than that. However, when it comes to pleasurable pursuits, I do what pleases me, unless I'm specifically entertaining guests, then I do what pleases them.
The hike was only four miles round trip, and it was led by a Native American botanist. I imagined a leisurely stroll, stopping every now and then to discuss plants of the region and their medicinal qualities, giving me ample opportunity to photograph the wildflowers that come out this time of year. It turned out that while we did stop to discuss plants, trees, flowers and moss, this was far from a leisurely stroll. I was quite baffled, because I was hiking as fast as I could within reason, because we were hiking on loose rocks and steep hills and I wasn't willing to twist an ankle or slip and fall down and bruise my hip again, yet I couldn't keep up with the group.
Would you believe my hip is still not healed from that fall I had while hiking well over a month ago? Every time I lay on my side, my Chi pup Stewie wants to lay on my hip, but I have to move him because it hurts.
Anyway, when we first began the hike I looked at the people around me and thought we'd be going slow because we had some senior citizens with walking sticks and a few people who waddled or limped, however all of them passed me up and left me in the dust. I was literally at the end of the line with just the tail guide, and the group had to keep stopping to let me catch up.
My mind was doing flip flops, because I could not figure out how I could be walking as fast as I could, and all the other people never broke out of a walk, yet pulled out so far ahead of me so fast. It was almost as if they were flying or teleporting themselves. I'd look down to focus on my footing, then look up, and they'd be gone. I was also baffled over why no one was enjoying the scenery or taking pictures. They were just heads down fast-walking both up and down hills. I certainly couldn't stop to take pictures when I was already holding everyone up. It was odd. It was as if everyone was just there for a workout, and no one really cared about the environment.
I seriously considered tapping out and telling the group leader that I was heading back, but I dislike being a quitter. Each time we came to a stop to talk about the flora and fauna, I'd look around and notice that no one was even breathing hard, while I was audibly heaving with each respiration and trying to keep my heart from beating out of my chest. I just could not fathom how I can hike, horseback ride or mountain bike at least a mile, usually two, most days and be this much out of shape compared to people who were ten to thirty years older than I was. I began wondering if perhaps I had some kind of disease I was not aware of.
The next time every one took off, I just decided to do my own thing and apologize to the tail guide, whose job it was to stay at the end of the line. I walked at a pace that was comfortable for me, and I stopped to take pictures. He turned out to be really cool, and after a while he was taking me off the trail to point out good subjects for photographs. We kind of became our own two-person hiking group. The botanist finally stopped waiting for me and just talked to those who could keep up, which made me feel less awkward.
At one point, we got halfway up another switchback, and I came around the corner to find one woman in the group was tapping out. She said she should have never signed up for the hike, because it was just too much for her. I wanted to tell her that she should just mosey along with the tail guide and I, or I could turn back with her. For me, it wasn't that I couldn't keep going. It was just that I couldn't go that fast. I suspect it was the same for her. Anyway, I guess the guides talked her into staying since our final destination was close.
Others began noticing that I was taking pictures, so they started taking pictures with their mobile phones, and then the whole group had to slow down, which made it easier for me to keep up. There was this one woman who got on my nerves, because she kept stepping in front of me when I had my camera held up to my eye. She'd see me taking a picture and decide that she wanted to take a picture of the same thing, so she'd just cut off my shot to get her shot. She also kept getting right on my heels and breathing down my neck. If I went faster, she went faster. If I slowed down for her to pass, she wouldn't pass, but stayed right on my heels. I stopped abruptly to take a picture and she ran into me. At that point, she had the sense to go around me.
The funny thing was that I found that I could suddenly relate better to horses after being on this group hike. I think I understand now how horses feel on group trail rides. If all the other horses get way ahead and disappear out of sight, the lone horse feels vulnerable and wants to run to catch up. If a horse comes up from behind it and gets too close, it feels pressured to move faster and feels an invasion of its personal space. The only thing I can't relate to is when horses won't let other horses pass them, because I'm usually like, "Please, go ahead so that I can go my own pace without pressure."
We had our snack break, and headed back. Most people were going a lot slower on the way home. The tail guide stayed with the woman who wanted to tap out, and she looked like she was in pain. She was putting most of her weight on her walking sticks instead of her legs. She was probably the only person in the group who was about my age, and besides the tail guide, I think I was the youngest. I was ahead of them, but still had no one else in sight.
I hiked by myself for a while and then came upon a different guide resting in the shade. She invited me to rest with her. We walked the rest of the way back together, and she taught me about the birds, and different types of legal standings that each section of land holds. She also showed me a location on the trail that her club recently worked on, and explained who is in the group and what their responsibilities were. I suspect she was trying to recruit me. She said she was out of shape, because she spends more time in meetings than she does hiking. (And that is exactly why I don't join recreational clubs. You never have time to do what you enjoy, because you are constantly running meetings and fundraisers.)
Anyway, today my body is still paying for that hike. Here are some pictures I took...
Last year I went on field trips with photographers, and everyone was really good about giving me my space and vice versa. It pays to hang out with people who share your interests and who know the proper etiquette. I'm sure that me stopping a lot to take pictures was not considered appropriate by people who were there to hike and exercise, so I probably shouldn't join a hiking group.
One thing I've been thinking about a lot lately is how people used to stay in one spot or general location their whole lives, but now people are much more mobile, and as a result, you wind up with a lot of people with different sensibilities sharing the same space. You know the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do?"
That's advice so that you don't get yourself into trouble in unfamiliar sociological settings. However, people can't help but bring their habits with them wherever they go. So, for instance, when I lived in a small farming community in Northern Nevada, the Californians stood out like sore thumbs because they drove our rural roads like they were on a freeway, and they shopped aggressively like they were in some kind of competition. They'd treat people rudely, assuming they'd never see them again, only to run into them everywhere they went, because it was such a small town. In other words, they were conditioned to behave a certain way if they came from crowded cities, and their behavior was not appropriate when it carried over in a slow moving, small town.
Anyway, I find dealing with the winter visitors in Arizona to be the ultimate challenge because they come from so many different locales and cultures. You can't predict what they are going to do. At least in Nevada, I knew what the Californians were going to do because I used to be one. Here in Arizona, I've seen some of the craziest behaviors, especially on the road. It's like the wild west, and I'm not sure if it's that way because the visitors don't understand the laws or if they are just so doped up on prescription drugs that they are half out of their minds. Literally, every time I go out in a car, whether I'm the driver or passenger, I almost get into a wreck.
When I was at the trail head, this mountain biker was blasting middle eastern music so loud that I wondered if he even appreciated the sounds of nature. Most people who take hiking trails don't want to listen to other people's music. Then I found out from the guides that the mountain bikers have been creating and maintaining their own trails out there, most likely without licensing and legal approval. They are putting up signs and naming their trails. Nobody has reported them, because they've all been polite to the hikers, but I was thinking that they should probably dot their i's and cross their t's before their trails start attracting people who do cause problems. All it will take is one complaint and they'll be shut down.
We had to step off the trail several times for mountain bikers to pass. In one case, the biker assumed that we would not step off to the side, but would keep walking, so he rode off the trail to go around us. The problem was that we did step aside for him and where we stepped off put him in the direct trajectory of a cholla cactus. He had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting it, and he got irritated with us. How were we supposed to know that he was going to aim for right where we were standing? Had he just stayed on the trail and slowed down, there wouldn't have been a problem.
As more and more different hobbies start vying for use of the same space, there are bound to be conflicts. I go horseback riding at the hottest part of the day in order to avoid mountain bikers. I know they are out there, because I see their tracks all over the trails. Most of them ride in the mornings when it is cooler. I have spent plenty of time desensitizing my horses to mountain bikes, but that doesn't mean they won't spook and bolt if someone comes racing up from behind us without announcing his presence well in advance.
I can't ride in the late afternoons because the kid down the street has been racing his go-kart back and forth in front of our house at that time every day, just like clockwork, and I don't want him flying up over the blind hill and taking my horse by surprise while we are crossing the road. The hill blocks both the sound, as well as the sight of what's coming. I'm pretty sure that if I get thrown off onto pavement, I'll come away with some broken bones. I also won't ride in my arena at that time of day between having to choke on the go-kart exhaust (it's really overwhelming) and the neighbors who trespass in my arroyo just before sunset spooking my horses. I'm really looking forward to things settling down.
One of the neighbors who trespasses in my section of the arroyo complained to me about all this go-kart business, but he's not willing to put a stop to it himself. I'm willing to deal with it as long as it doesn't go on for hours and the kid doesn't tear up my property. I figure at some point, the novelty has to wear off and the kid will find something more interesting to do. He has been tearing up the properties of the neighbors on each side of me, but I figure that's their jobs to call him on it. I'm pretty sure by now most people know not to drive on our property, which is why the kid stays in the street when he passes our house.
If I can make it through most of this week without getting sick and without having to go to a bunch of appointments, I'm planning on working with the horses as much as possible.