Monday, October 06, 2008

And They're Paving a Stairway to the Mountain Top

For weeks, we've been staring out from our balcony at the mountains in the distance, talking about how one day soon we would get out there and hike to a summit. So there we were, finally, at the entrance to Fragrant Hills Park, just a short bus ride from our home, ready to go for it.

Walking inside the park (after paying the admission fee...death, taxes, admission fees in China), we were immediately impressed. Nice landscaping. Beautiful walkways. A park that was up to what you might call "Western standard."

And then we started the ascent. A huge difference between being outdoors in China versus in the US? In America, we hike on dirt trails. Here in China, it's concrete, stones, and stairs the whole way. All of that pavement makes it somehow feel like it's not "real" hiking. (Or maybe it's all of those women in high heels speeding by...)

Frankly, though, man-made pathways can be more taxing to the body than off-road hiking, especially on a wet day. (It had rained that morning.) Just ask my coccyx. Climbing down a particularly steep section, my feet slid out from under me and I fell flat onto the stairs. Trust me...that hurt like a thousand times more than any TCM treatment, both at the moment and after the fact.

Aside from the pain, I'm afraid that the whole "pave the mountain" mentality is something I will grudgingly tolerate, but never come to appreciate. For me, it seems to feed into this mentality of speeding up to the top, taking your photos, and heading right back down the freeway. Or maybe it's just that you are constantly surrounded by thousands (or more) of your closest friends, which makes it easy to get sucked into the "race" that's implicitly going on.

Lesson for next time? (We'll definitely be back.) Just do what you always try to do...slow down and enjoy the process...and be careful going down the stairs!

~Steve

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