I arrive at six forty-three for the traditional seven o’clock Morning Hike. We depart in two minutes. I later learn that the seven o’clock Morning Hike has been rescheduled to six forty-five.
Nobody told me.
(I was afraid to ask when that change had been instituted. I once asked a waitress how come the restaurant didn’t serve tuna burgers anymore, to which she confidently replied, “We’ve never served tuna burgers.” I was confused. It was my favorite place to have tuna burgers.)
Traditionally, the seven o’clock… sorry, the six forty-five Morning Hike is the only exercise I partake of when I visit the Ranch. Other guests attend various fitness classes from nine till five. I’m finished by breakfast.
I have always taken the easiest hikes. Shorter and less steep. They offer a Mountain Hike. But I figure if a hike has the word “Mountain” in it, I’ll stick to the undulating hills.
(On a much earlier visit, I agreed to an arranged afternoon “group hike” up the mountain with several newly made Ranch buddies, which included breaks for rest, water and recovered breathing. Though the view from the top of the mountain was spectacular, I did not need to see it again. And certainly not at a speedier pace.)
Years ago, after a fire decimated the terrain of the reassuringly named “Meadow Hike”, they blazed trails for two replacement moderate hikes, creating the “Woodlands Hike” and the “Quail Hike.” The “Woodlands Hike’s” woodlands are beautiful. I have yet to encounter a quail.
Let me get to it. I felt intimations on recent previous visits. But this time, the signals are startlingly apparent.
The “moderate hikes” are, for me, getting less and less moderate.
Making it clear, paraphrasing the recently sung Christmas classic,
“‘Elderly’ is coming to town.”
I am nothing if not realistic. (Do not hold me to that rigorous standard. Otherwise, I’ll be nothing.) On the moderate hikes, I do not expect to be at the front of the pack. I never have been. I have, however, in the past, found myself comfortably in the middle.
I’m in the back. Outpaced by everyone else. Including, I overheard, by a woman who just recovered from knee surgery.
I did pass one person, who had previously passed me. But she had stopped to take pictures. When she finished, she sped up and passed me again.
It was an imperceptible downgrade. I did not feel slower.
I just was slower.
And working considerably harder in the attempt. On earlier visits the invisible Mariachi band that performed only for me had accompanied my morning hiking excursions with,
“Mr. Pomerantz is on the trail
Mr. Pomerantz is looking pale…”
This time, I detected a change in the lyrics to,
“Mr. Pomerantz is on the trail
Mr. Pomerantz is looking frail...”
But, you know, English is not their first language. They may have mistakenly mis-sung. Though I’ll tell you. I did not look in peak condition.
It’s not that I don’t exercise at home; I exercise six days a week. But I have apparently gone too easy on myself. With the complicity, it appears, of my exercise machines. An unwise trip to the Ranch’s treadmills revealed that my home speed calibration of 4.7 was, in reality, 3.9.
EARL’S COMPASSIONATE TREADMILL: “What’s the harm in him thinking he’s going faster?”
The harm is, I am unexpectedly huffing and puffing on the “moderate” hike at Rancho La Puerta. I had to stop for a rest, too bushed to even pretend I was admiring the landscape.
You slow down as you get older. I knew that already. I did not need a graphic example.
Supplemented by the “Good Mornings.”
Before our first hike, we were alerted to “hiking etiquette.” If we wanted to pass someone, we were advised to say, “Good morning”, an understood signal of our desire to move up.
I cannot tell you how many “Good mornings” I heard today. What annoyed me was not so much that everyone was passing me, although, you know, I’m only human. What really got me was that nobody was actually saying, “Good morning.” “Good morning” was “code” for “Get out of my way!” As you can imagine, my return “Good mornings” were not entirely friendly. There was a distinct undercurrent of “Yeah, right.”
Yes, you can ignore the message of advancing decrepitude and simply slow down and enjoy the surroundings. There are two difficulties with that procedure. One, you are not, in fact, slowing down; you are going as fast as you can. And two, “Stop and smell the roses” is a more joyful perspective when it is not a medical necessity.
Maybe it’s because I’m heavier. Maybe I’m not eating enough, in my intense effort to become less “heavier.” Maybe it was just a bad day. The “Woodlands Hike” alternates daily with the “Quail Hike”, which we’ll be taking tomorrow.
The “Quail Hike” is harder.