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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Soaring to new heights

Originally published Nov. 5, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

I’ve never been a fan of the outdoors. My fair skin burns easily in the sun, and watching “Jaws” one too many times as a young child has ensured that I never feel entirely safe in water that’s not contained in a bathtub.But before I had gastric-bypass surgery in February, I realized that liking the outdoors was never really an option for me. The only hiking I ever did was at science camp in the sixth grade. As the biggest kid in the class, I spent so much time trying to keep up, I never got the chance to really appreciate the sights. That experience shaped my feelings toward the outdoorsfrom then on.

As my surgery neared, my husband and I started compiling a list of things we thought weight loss would help me accomplish. It included places we wanted to go that I didn’t feel comfortable visiting when I was more than 300 pounds. One of the big goals I had was to go hiking. My husband enjoys camping, fishing, water skiing, snow skiing and just being out in the fresh air.He feels a sense of renewal when communing with nature. It became important to me to at least try to share in his love once I was healthy enough to do so.

First hike leads to future plans
Our original plan was to go to Mount Diablo during the summer, but I still had a lot of trouble tolerating the heat, so we never went. In September, my husband and I joined his family on a picnic in Knights Ferry. It was a warm day, but I found the area to be pretty. We went back last weekend and enjoyed a short hike along the Stanislaus River.

Nestled between Oakdale and Sonora, Knights Ferry seems to stay fairly cool. We started with a walk from thepicnic grounds across the 365-foot-long covered bridge — reportedly the longest of its kind — and headed away from the town’s ruins toward the hills. Our hike took us from golden foothills to the rocky riverbank. I clambered up rocks that my husband, at 6-foot-4, easily leapt upon. I slipped a time or two, sliding on my backside, but all in all, it was loads of fun. I got dirty and sweaty but enjoyed the time with my husband — even when the only sound was that of my panting.

After the hike, we went back to the picnic grounds and talked about how much fun we had. We both agreed that our sneakers were too slippery and that we’d need actual hiking boots before trying another jaunt. At my husband’s urging, we left the grounds to check out a store he saw along the way in Oakdale that specializes in hiking boots. About $80 later, we left the store with a pair of boots for each of us and plans to tackle Mount Diablo this weekend.I n Danville, the park is expecting cool weather this weekend and we hope to take advantage of it to explore Rock City and Fossil Ridge. Maybe this time I’ll remember to take a camera so I can bring back proof of our trip.

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