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Let’s be honest here, gaining 1500 feet over a mile is nothing like an hour in a hot tub eating ice cream. Quads burn, calves cry, lungs bleed (not really, but if you’re on a steep slope and you’re out of shape enough, it can taste like it).
Who’s more miserable? 081617 AE 1 Capital City Weekly Let’s be honest here, gaining 1500 feet over a mile is nothing like an hour in a hot tub eating ice cream. Quads burn, calves cry, lungs bleed (not really, but if you’re on a steep slope and you’re out of shape enough, it can taste like it).

Californians Brennan Koeller and Chuy Media look out from Mahoney Mountain after "the hardest hike of their lives." Photo courtesy of Jeff Lund.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Story last updated at 8/15/2017 - 6:08 pm

Who’s more miserable?

In high school I ran cross country to get in shape for basketball. Well, no, not really. I ran cross country for the opportunity to travel and miss some school.

Running gets you in shape for running. Basketball shape is a different kind of shape, so it established a baseline which was better than nothing.

I never really liked running and even the marathons and half marathons I ran were more out of an obligation to prevent later regret than enjoyment of the run itself.

Thankfully Southeast Alaska has a plethora of opportunities to feel miserable in bucolic areas, like mountains.

Let’s be honest here, gaining 1500 feet over a mile is nothing like an hour in a hot tub eating ice cream. Quads burn, calves cry, lungs bleed (not really, but if you’re on a steep slope and you’re out of shape enough, it can taste like it).

But it’s totally worth it.

If you are in shape, then do it faster, because it’s nice to get your butt kicked every once in a while. It reminds you of the magnitude of what you are attempting and maybe that you should get to a gym a little more often so it isn’t as painful as it could be.

A former student of mine, Brennan Koeller, is a national champion weightlifter and came to Ketchikan, along with his coach Chuy, to put on a weightlifting clinic at Ketchikan CrossFit. The dudes can move weight but Mahoney Mountain near Ketchikan was all they could handle. They have strong legs, but not necessarily alpine hiking legs. They were miserable. The funny part about the three-hour hike was that it was tough to tell who was the most miserable. Zack and I live in Ketchikan and were drenched in sweat thanks to exercising in the extreme heat (72 degrees). Chuy and Brennan were hardly sweating. It made sense, considering they are used to working out in a stuffy gym when it’s 112 degrees outside.

Four dudes, four individual brands of misery, all of which faded in the light of the fading sun into four individual reasons why it was all worth it.

In the morning Zack and I split up, taking one Californian to help us pack a deer should we have the chance to shoot one. It didn’t happen, but again that’s not what it’s all about. The hike itself was worth it.

Camping on a mountain top, even though it was incredibly windy, was worth it.

Getting food would have just been a bonus, a bonus I’ll look for this weekend on another mountain that makes me wonderfully miserable.

I don’t run much to get into shape for hiking. I just hike, which is perfect because I like hiking. I don’t like bug bites, heel blisters or dead legs, but that comes with experience, even enriches it. I like hiking mostly for the result, to get somewhere worth being. Somewhere real, away from all the stuff we’ve created or invented to distract us or trick us into thinking we’re living exciting lives even though it’s spent in front of a screen. As Chuy said, “If you do Alaska the way we did it, it reaches into the man’s soul and gives it a sense of eudaimonic well-being.”

Perfect.

Jeff Lund lives and writes in Ketchikan.