So 3 years ago yesterday I took Megan out on a date and it quickly turned into a classic robby-comedy-of-errors. We went to get pizza, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea to get the super spicy BBQ tofu pizza, even though I know Megan doesn’t really like spicy foods. But it’d be fun to try, right? I wish I could say it was delicious, but it turned out that it was just, er, mean. She indulged me and went along with it, and when it finally came out it was brutally hot. WAY too spicy for either one of us. So that was dinner, picking around the edges of some food that was essentially torture.
Then it got even worse. Instead of doing some normal date stuff like seeing a movie, I took her to climb a mountain. Yup. A mountain. “It’ll be fun! How often do you get a chance to climb a mountain?” Even though, as far as mountains go, this one was pretty manageable, it was still a pretty big hike, with some dicey spots towards the top. Again, Megan was a good sport about it and went along. So here I am going up this mountain, thinking I’ve got this grand adventure planned, and I’m so pleased with myself that I don’t notice Megan being less and less ok with the idea. It’s getting late. The trail is getting steeper and rockier, and to top it all off, it’s summer solstice so there’s tons of people up there with us. This isn’t a quiet romantic nature moment. There’s people running around everywhere being crazy. Normally, not a big deal, but when you’re hikeing up a tiny, loose-gravelly, still-snowy-in-june, increasingly steep trail, it’s a little unnerving. On top of that, these weren’t people I was particularly psyched about sharing a romantic evening with. After the guy with the devil sticks and the oversized Mastercard parody shirt reading “MasterPimp” (classy) blew by us for the third time, I was finally starting to question my date-planning skills.
Unfortunately, the last 5% of it is a near vertical uphill scramble. I had done it a couple times before, but it’s definitely scary if it’s your first time, under any circumstances, let alone the near-carinval atmosphere of summer solstice in Alaska.
But the top is so close! And this will all be worth it, right? Well, we never made it.
Right about that point, a family is coming down the same way we were going up. They have three dogs that are just loving the rocks. They’re bouncing all around us, knocking stuff loose, sending rocks tumbling down around us (which are honestly probably pretty small but in the moment it seemed like several mini avalanches). While that’s going on, I look up and see a kid leap of some rocks about 100 feet above us, falling about 20 feet, then landing in one of the few remaining snow banks on the mountain and sliding down for another couple hundred feet, skidding in between jagged boulders the whole way. The whole thing took about 5 seconds. I was pretty sure I was watching someone making a terrible, Darwin-Award-worthy mistake. Turns out, it was all intentional, and he jumped right back up, ready to run back up and do it again.
It was right around that point where I looked back and saw Megan trembling, frozen, with tears rolling down her face. She had reached her limit, and couldn’t take another step. I tried to talk her through it. “There’s only 100 feet more to the top!”, “I promise it will all be worth it once we get up there!”, “You’re halfway up the bad part, so going down is going to be just as scary as going up!”. In retrospect, that last part was a pretty shitty way to phrase it. But at this point, I had sent Megan into a full on panic attack, and I felt terrible. After a few minutes of talking, it became clear there was only one option, we needed to get off this trail, away from all these people, away from these dogs that are weaving through our feet. And we needed to do it IMMEDIATELY. We took it step-by-step, and within about ten minutes or so we were back off the really scary part. Luckily, there was a little, mellow ridge nearby that was just far enough away from the constant flow of people. We made our way up to it and were able to catch our breath. Turns out, it ended up having just about as good of a few as the top of the mountain, minus all summer solstice revelry. It was great. Here’s a picture:
So here I am. It’s midnight. We’re on top of a mountain in Anchorage, AK. I’ve just gastronomically, physically, and emotionally scarred my girlfriend. Somehow, she’s put up with it all (although at this point I’m unsure how much of it is good will, and how much is fear that if she left me she wouldn’t find her way back down the mountain). After all that, despite all that, I still had one more thing I had to pile on the evening. I set up the camera to take a picture, flipped it on to video instead and let it roll.
“Hey dummy, the light’s not blinking. You didn’t set the timer… It’s not going to take the picture…”