Sunday, February 19, 2012

I live for weekends

You know that question that guidance counselors and career development advisors always ask about what you'd do for a career if you already had a ton of money? Well, I've always been completely unwavering in my answer to that question - I wouldn't work. At all. That may sound lazy -- even unrealistic -- to a lot of people. And I get that. We're kind of programmed to believe we have to work -- we're born to work -- for a living. I know the point behind that question is that we should always choose the thing we'd do for the simple love of it and not get caught up in how much money we would make doing it. But I came to a realization a long time ago about myself and I think it sort of makes that question moot for me.  And I suspect I'm not alone, too. What I realized was this: the moment something I love to do becomes something I have to do, it loses something crucial about what I loved about it in the first place. Maybe it's the freedom to do it entirely on my own schedule or something. Whatever it is, the moment you call it a job, it's gone. I mean, let's face it, there is responsibility with anything that is a "job", even if you don't need the money to do it. You take on a job, you're agreeing to a contract where you aren't the only party with something at stake now. And that means you can't just "be" in whatever it is you love anymore. You have obligations. At least I look at it that way. I'm not lazy, and I don't shy away from responsibility (at least I don't think I do), but for me, a big part of what I love about any of my hobbies, as it were, is that they are all mine. Change that, and I lose them.

So why am I saying all of this? Well, it relates to the title of this post. I work a lot, especially this time of year. And while I get out for rides and workouts during the week, I still live for the weekends. The weekends are mine. I choose -- ride or not. Weekends are possibility. And as long as I'll be working, I'll personally place a premium on weekends.

And this weekend was exactly the kind I'd like to relive week after week.

On Friday night, Joanna and I took a restorative yoga class for the first time. It was awesome - simultaneously relaxing and challenging, and for a beginner yoga student like myself, the supported poses are a great way to progress. I'd recommend yoga for anyone who rides, runs or does anythign else that is physically demanding. I'm still pretty new to it, but I've already noticed some significant improvements in the way I feel throughout the day.

Saturday morning, I was up at 4:30 to head up to NYC to pick up my brother for a hike we'd planned for weeks. Our destination was Hawk Mountain and a section of the Appalachian Trail here in PA. Yeah, Our goal was to get up there early and get in at least 15 miles on the day. Since the El trains in are notoriously unreliable on the weekends, I agreed to pick up my brother at his place in Queens and then head back to PA for the hike. We wanted to be on the trail by 10, so that meant an early day. I was hoping all week that the weather would hold out for us. And we got lucky in a big way. 

A beautiful sunny Saturday morning on Hawk Mountain
It was a beautiful morning. We got to Hawk Mountain at about 9:30, and headed out along the River of Rocks Trail with temperatures in the mid-40's and sunny skies.

The River of Rocks is well-named
We linked up to the Golden Eagle Trail after completing the full roundabout on River of Rocks, and hit the most challenging part of our day -- a steep hump up the valley wall to the Skyline trailhead. Every time I hike there, I tell myself that this time that climb will be easy. It never is, and I think that's what I love about it. Walking up that hill is harder than running 5 miles on flat ground. Awesome.

Once we hit Skyline, we headed out to the AT for a stretch along the Hawk Mountain to Pinnacle spur. My brother hadn't done any hikes like this before, but he did a great job all day -- not easy on those rocks.

No shortage of loose ankle breakers on the AT
We ultimately did about 9 miles on the AT, 4-5 out and back.

Standing on one of the incredible sweeping overlooks along this spur of the AT.
After doubling back, we hiked the Skyline Trail to the main overlook. This is a technical section where we had to scamper and climb rock formations the whole way back.

There is a trail in here someplace

Getting ready to climb up over another obstacle
We ultimately hiked around 20 miles on the day, and while the soles of my feet complained a bit afterward because of all the rocks, it was probably the best hike I've ever done. Just an awesome day.

And I mentioned that we got lucky -- turns out that just as we were finishing up the last section, the sky was starting to turn a bit. And by the time we had finished, packed up and driven down the mountain, it had already started to rain.

The clouds started rolling in at the end of our day
We stopped at Bethlehem BrewWorks, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, on the way back for some post-ride eats and beers. 

While I enjoyed the new Type A IPA, my brother loved the  Fegley's ESB
It was tough to end a day like that, but eventually I had to bring my brother back to Queens and head home myself. But when I got home, Joanna had gone to dinner with friends at a McKenzie Brewpub near Chesterbrook and she brought me back a growler of their Saison Farmhouse Ale. And it's really good!

So I wouldn't be lying to say that it would be pretty difficult to beat a day like Saturday. I had a great time with my brother on an epic hike in perfect weather in February, and finished it off with great food and brew.

So I kind of figured Sunday would be a letdown, especially since it was rainy when I finally went to bed.  But when I woke up Sunday, it was sunny and promising to be a warm day again, and for me that meant one thing: time to ride!

Riding in February without even leg warmers!
My legs were admittedly a bit tired from the previous day's hike, so I didn't plan on doing a really big ride, but the day was just too perfect not to get out, and it turned out conditions were pretty epic, too. The  previous days rain left no mark on the trails at Wissahickon, so the only limitation to a good ride was going to be the rider himself. And it turns out, I had a little more in the legs than I originally thought I would. I ended the day with about 15 miles, but finished the ride in a little more than an hour and a half.

Taken in summary, the weekend involved time with Joanna doing something good for the both of us on Friday, an all-day hike with a brother I don't see often enough on Saturday, and another great ride in spring-like weather today. All in all, a fantastic two days -- the kind of weekend that's worth living for!

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