By Jerry Zezima
I have long been told, by people too numerous to mention, including members of my own family, to take a hike. But because of the rarefied air between my ears, I waited until a recent trip to the Rocky Mountains to take them up -- way up -- on their suggestion.
My initial ascent of a slope high enough to let me see what flight attendants were serving on passing airplanes was made during a long weekend in Granby, Colo., a picturesque town that is about 8,000 feet above sea level. Considering I am 6 feet tall and live close to the shore, it is 7,994 feet higher than what I am used to.
Accompanying me on this exhausting excursion were my wife, Sue; our daughters, Katie and Lauren; Katie's husband, Dave; and our niece Ashley. All are in better shape than I am. So are some dead people, but I didn't want to join them by falling off a cliff or being eaten by a mountain lion.
The first hikers we encountered on the trail were three young children, two women who apparently were their mothers and a white-haired lady whose age, I would estimate, was 112. She had a walking stick.
"Good morning!" she chirped as we tramped by. "Are you enjoying your hike?"
"This is my first one," I told her.
The lady looked at my ratty sneakers, worn sweatpants, "I Love Garlic" T-shirt and bloodshot eyes and said, "I hope you don't have trouble with the altitude."
"I'm naturally lightheaded," I replied, "so it doesn't bother me."
What did bother me was the prospect of being attacked by any number of ferocious fauna, including but not limited to Bigfoot.
"What happens if we encounter a bear?" Sue asked.
"It would be pretty grizzly," I said.
To which Ashley responded, "Good one!"
Then there were beavers, which came to my boggled mind when we passed a stream that had been dammed by the industrious rodents.
"Last year," I recalled, "a fisherman in Europe was killed by a berserk beaver."
Dave saw the bright side when he pointed to the sparkling water and said, "Every delicious ounce of Coors Light starts right here."
I could have used a beer because I was hot on the trail (of what, I wasn't sure), but all I had was a bottle of water, and it was warm.
As we made our way up the steep grade (I was expecting my grade to be F, which would have stood for "fainted"), I actually felt invigorated.
"You're doing very well," Katie said with a touch of astonishment.
"I thought you would have keeled over by now," Lauren added optimistically.
Aside from a couple of brief rest stops, we made a beeline (and did not, fortunately, get stung by bees) to the top of the trail, where I beheld two wondrous sights: a waterfall and a lawyer.
The former was not exactly Niagara Falls, though I did approach it step by step, inch by inch, but the latter was exactly what I didn't expect to see.
"You think you can get away from us," said Patrick Fitz-Gerald, an attorney from Denver. "But we're everywhere."
He was hiking with his wife, Katie; their daughter, Larkin, 3; and their golden retriever, Buddy, 7, who Patrick said is on the cover of the paperback edition of the best-selling Garth Stein novel, "Racing in the Rain."
When Patrick told me that he used to be a journalist but quit to become a lawyer, I said, "You finally found honest work."
"If you get hurt on the trail and need representation," Patrick said, "call me."
Except for a scratch on my middle finger, which I was too polite to show him, I didn't get hurt at all. On the way down, which admittedly was a lot easier than going up, I told our merry band that I had a terrific time on my first hike.
"I guess," said Lauren, speaking for everyone, "you're not over the hill after all."
Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of "Leave It to Boomer" and "The Empty Nest Chronicles." Visit his blog at www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net.
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima