What’s your sport?

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors, Powell

If you are in the Knoxville area, you hear a lot about football, basketball and baseball. Having watched those sports a few times I decided a long time ago that keeping a ball from a large person intent on murder was not the sport for me. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sport. My sport is hiking. No physical contact required; no particular physical size is demanded. It’s easy, right? It’s not even really a sport. All you’re doing is walking, after all. Well, my friend, read on.

Dan and I love hiking. We hike in winter when bugs, bears and snakes aren’t such a problem. Awhile back we took a long weekend camping – 3 days of 10-mile hikes. Temperatures were between 18 to 22 degrees, which was fine by us. The last hike of the trip, out of clean hiking clothes, I wore blue jeans and long johns Not ideal – hiking clothes keep you comfortable and dry quickly, but it would be fine.

Cindy Arp (center) and friends on the Epic Hike.

We’d hiked eight miles when we crossed a wooden bridge spanning a ravine. Dan marched across, me right behind. The bridge was ice, and my feet slipped. I fell eight feet, sliding on my back, desperately trying to break my fall using my two hiking poles. I finally slid to a stop, scared to death but not hurt. Muddy and very cold, I couldn’t climb the slick sides of the ravine. Dan pulled me out by lying down, extending one of his hiking poles for me to grab and then pulling me up to safety. I hiked those last two miles, miserable in wet, muddy jeans. We call that hike “The Muddy Butt Bridge Incident.”

The other hike was with the Hiker Chicks. This one was long, in the hot summer. After lunch, heading up a ridge, the hikers in front charged back. The leader had almost stepped on an incredibly angry, large rattlesnake blocking the trail. After 30 minutes of loud rattles, the snake moved on and we continued. It started raining; we put on our rain gear. Rain gear is hot, and as soon as possible I stopped, taking off my rain gear while dropping my poles almost on top of a copperhead. I grabbed my poles, and we had another run. We were two miles from our cars, when we stepped on a yellowjacket nest and, ducks in a row that we were, all were stung. Lord in Heaven! We call that one the “Epic Hike.”

In the past, I never understood sports players who continue to return after several injuries. Now I understand it. I don’t limp because of a football accident, I don’t have any special moves to dodge another person, but I do have bragging rights about Muddy Butt Bridge and the Epic Hike. I can fluff up my feathers and feel proud of enduring hardships, coming out on the other side, possibly mildly scathed, but continuing on. Maybe part of any sport is the hiccups, the near misses, the bragging rights, the survival.

Sports. Now I understand. I am right behind the players, cheering them on while understanding the strengthening, the uplifting, and let’s admit it, the pride-inducing feelings sports can provide. I know of which I speak – I am the survivor of the Great Muddy Butt Bridge incident. Go Vols!

Cindy Arp: Hiker, reader and nana to the world’s best grandson. Cindy is eternally curious.

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