Friday, February 26, 2016

The Perks Of Repeating

I have written about hiking Harney Peak many times.

Seriously. Maybe too often. Heck, I've even used it as an example for other things.

So why am I doing it again?

Maybe I should start sitting elsewhere, though...
I have a goal for this year -- a trek up once a month at a minimum -- and that goal has been questioned more than once. Reasonably, I might add. Why would someone go over the same trail so many times? Why pick the same destination over and over when there are so many other options out there?

... It's not an easy goal to defend, as it turns out.

I'm lucky enough to have sampled trails throughout the Hills, but this is one section I've done repeatedly. Over the course of two(ish) decades, I've been up something like 35 times. And over those trips -- from different trailheads with different routes -- I've gotten to the point of being friendly with the area, especially the main trail from Sylvan Lake.

There's something strangely satisfying about the level of familiarity I've finally reached with #9 South. I can look up more. I can stare off into the trees as I walk. I can tell newcomers and tourists how much farther it is up (or down). I know the landmarks and the order they appear. I know which turn to take wide so I can finally stop maiming myself on the same tree root. [Ahem.] I now know that the area I used to refer to as Tornado Alley -- after Atlas in 2013, it looked like Mother Nature had given a few acres of forest a massive swirlie -- now appears to be a mini-Tunguska. And when I get to the top, I apparently kick back on almost the exact same square foot of rock because I know it's moderately comfortable.

Furthermore, I know which routes I like to take down but not up and how much time they can add. I'm learning the side trails and the vistas, slowly but surely, and the payoff?


There are practical benefits, too. This time of year, this is one section of the Hills that I know others will travel. If I'm going to slip on some ice, I'd rather it be in a place where I'm more easily found. (And for that matter, where I'm familiar with the cell coverage.)

While I'm working my way through the trails in the Hills, I'm still going to be coming back here. That familiarity has built to the point where it's more like hiking with an old friend. Trees may fall and the trail may shift and change with the seasons, but in the end? That old friend is still waiting for a walk and a couple quiet hours of conversation.

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