The first glow of sunlight on the first day of September peered over the continental divide and looked down to see me suffering my way uphill, regretting a summer’s sloth and too many cookouts, one sorry step at a time. It was too late to start a program, too late to do better, too late to push back from the table or wave extra helpings away. There was nothing to do but own it and haul it all along for the ride.

Bushels of fresh figs made my belt strain as I threw my pack over my shoulders and stretched elastic to clip the straps in front. Plates of fried green tomatoes said ‘hi’ as the first 75 yards of altitude took my breath away. A line of sausage dogs stretching to the previous May barked and made my legs burn in the 75 yards after that.

We hit a game trail that scribed a line high into dark timber where schools of fried catfish muddled past. I plodded along, regretting each crunchy hushpuppy in an individual, personal way.

Far ahead, high-pitched bugles echoed from a golden aspen glade. They rode down on falling breezes, drifting through ponderosa pine, carrying sage ripened by a summer’s sun, chased by frosty nights to come. They reached me, still low, and pulled me on.

It’s easier to enjoy the mountains on the way down, but that’s a pleasure only earned one uphill bite at a time.

Kevin Tate is VP of Media for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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