We’re about 3,500 feet up and my head is spinning. My heart is pounding everywhere except in my chest- in my ears, in my temples, in my feet, and OH MY GOD my quads are on FIRE. I’m out of breath, and hating myself for not being in better shape. For not being able to propel myself up this mountain as fast as the rest of the group. The self-doubt comes rushing in and I lean up against a tree, wheezing. And then, Trevor hands me an apple.
It was a magic apple. Bright red and small. Sugary but not too sweet, juicy and crunchy and purely satisfying. It lifted me out of my own head and put the pleasure back into hiking. The last 1,589 feet weren’t easy, but they were far from torturous. My thoughts changed from shit-talking my abilities to positive reinforcements of my own strength. We summated Mt. Lincoln, all 5,089 feet, in an hour and a half.
One of my very favorite parts about hiking, aside from the spectacular views and the sense of invincibility, is that food takes on a whole new meaning. Whether it’s a handful of trail mix or an apple on the way up, a hummus-cheese-and pickles sandwich at the top, or even downing the last drops of your water bottle, you can taste with every bite or swallow new strength coming into your body. You can almost feel every glorious calorie finding its way to the parts of your body that need the most repair.
It made me think about all the meals I have when my body isn’t being heavily strained. “Food as fuel”- the notion that we should eat solely to keep our strength up- has never been a motivating concept for me before. I believe food has purposes far greater than simply caloric intake. Food brings friends and family together, it can connect you with the seasons and to your community, it can bring back memories of wonderful times and people, or food can be just be simply fun.
But there’s nothing like a long hike to help you take stock of how much food for fun vs. food for fuel you’ve been enjoying recently. Last weekend’s hike helped me to re-evaluate my diet. I noticed that my portions have been a little large lately, and that there really isn’t a need to snack between meals unless you have a workout you’re prepping for, or unless you’re really, really hungry.
And if you are really, really hungry- eat an apple.