Today, I defied protests from my softening body and went on a hike in the Cascades. My friend Tom, a music critic who also spends the vast majority of his time sitting on his ass, goaded me into it. Having grown up on ventures into the hills surrounding Seattle, I was quick to come up with a hike that looked both easy and convenient. I grew up on hikes and cross-country skiing in the mountains and rowing in the various waterways of the Seattle region. How low I have fallen since then!
Tom, who has a deadline on Friday, used sheer force of will to get me to come along, saying that he needed to go TODAY or he wouldn’t finish his work. After dropping the kids off with grandma this morning, I got some much needed time to clear my head, and when Tom called I relented and packed a bottle of water and a couple sandwiches for the trip.
We drove to the trailhead in North Bend and began our little journey into the hills, which started out on a steep grade. No problem for the first mile or so. We were moving along and chatting happily as we wended our way through the woods and ferns. “What a happy little hike,” we remarked. However, trouble struck around the halfway point, when I misinterpreted a sign, leading us to a rock-climbing ledge on a sheer cliff, cut through only by a meager trail fit for goats at best. Tom and I heroically lugged our hefty frames some 100 yards up the diversion, until it became clear that something was wrong when we saw climbing ropes snaking past us into a mossy abyss. Looking down was out of the question — our grim fate was written all too clearly on the faces of defiant boulders many stories below. So we held on, grasping the slanting rocks for dear life, clinging to the diminishing trail, which mocked us with every narrow neck and slick protrusion. Fortunately, we made it back down in one piece, and continued on our way along a far more tame route up the hill.
But I digress.
Despite our brush with a gory demise, there was something else remarkable about our hike up the mountain. On the way up, we came across a number of young women, some coupled and some alone, who really stood out for their physique. Healthy, trim, fresh and happy, they greeted us like valkyries on our ascent. Every single young woman we saw on this hike was well above average in terms of looks. They emerged from the trees with little backpacks, trim legs and ponytails. It was a wonderland up there that bore no relation to the world I see around me every day in Seattle. In fact, the closest I can get to it is at daybreak, when younger career women go for their morning jogs, but they hardly compare to the fresh-faced, leggy girls I saw today.
I mentioned this to my friend, suggesting that perhaps selection bias is at work here. In fact, it must be. The two of us had a rough go of it hauling ourselves up some 1,200 feet in the two miles to the peak. Your typical city girl would dread this kind of exertion, as moderate as it actually was. But the girls I saw on the trail were so at ease that they had no problem stopping to chat with a couple sweaty, red-faced guys from the city.
Although making it to the peak was a satisfying accomplishment, I think the lesson I learned today will stand out in my memory in far sharper detail than the view from the top: if you want to find healthy, attractive women, engage in some healthy, active pursuits.