Aug. 18th: Mt. Olympus Trailhead, Salt Lake City, Utah
With all due respect, all the sessions and workshops at the annual convention, which were supposed to be inspirational and motivational if not educational in a sense of being a sales associate, were nothing fresh to me. I have to say, coming from the background of graduating one of the greatest private American universities whose founding insight being pragmatism and having founded my own businesses, these brought me back to my rookie years, and the fact that people still celebrate behavioral economics and socialnomics stuff from 10 years ago kind of disturbed me.
But, you know what, I was being too cynical then, and my outfit as an entrepreneur, though almost going out of business, could not admit these lectures were actually meaningful. My cynicism was still pretty much grounded to my forever lingering question toward myself of why the heck I was stuck in Salt Lake City for 5 days. Three months back when she asked me if I’d join her in Utah for her business trip, I can be almost positive that I heard that she needed my escort because she’s never been to the US, and I know the way around.
Maybe that was what I wanted to hear from her, but in actuality was it me who wanted to take another liberty and come to America. America is the name of my chronic disease that haunts me and gives me excruciating pain for not spending enough time with her. That could be it because I had been absent and neglected her for 12 months.
This feeling of remorse about the way I acted throughout the convention and the unanswerable question of the core reason to come to America repeatedly surfaced in my head as morbid tenacity when, under chilly dawn breeze of the desert climate, I was steadily making my way up the trail to the summit of Mt. Olympus, the highest peak around Salt Lake City.
Today was the last day of the convention, but the night before, I felt a strong urge to at least accomplish one of many outdoor activities in Utah, which I designed back in Tokyo, so I told everyone hesitantly, but they were more understanding than my petty concern. It’s my life after all.
So, I was there hiking the steep, average 10% grading slope. I woke up at 4:30am and ate doggy bag food from the previous night to load some carb in me, and I hit the road and got to the trailhead at 6am sharp.
It was chilly until the sun came out. The trail began from sandy desert-like hills with scrubby spots of dried bush, and as the trail continued on into narrow passage tucked in between rocky humps that were the walls to the valley underneath, it suddenly became more damp, warmer, and muddy.
I took off the light wind-stopper shell and packed inside the ultra-light backpack, which is designed for high speed hiking. But, still I was starting to sweat a lot.
The trail is on the western side of the mountain, which provides a great cover from scorching sun, but still the summer in desert with my fast pace hiking was working beyond my capacity to control my body temperature. I wish I had the hydration system instead of two of 1-liter canteens stored inside my backpack, dangling and shifting the weight balance from where I wanted it to be. So, whenever I wanted to hydrate, which I did many times, I had to go through all the trouble of digging inside of the pack and find it.
In the heavily bushed and thick sylvan trail, there was almost no wind coming in or out, which made me sweat substantially. And, so I started to worry about the remaining water if I kept on at this rate, but when the trail opened up and the slope eased, it was a whole other climate and sensation of the atmosphere.
The vista was already great. It really opened up, and I was able to see Salt Lake City downtown, suburbs, the route from the direction of Las Vegas, and neighboring mountains.
I looked down my foot because it felt different. The ground itself and rocks around were different from just a minute ago. Ground is not muddy anymore, and instead it was a carpet of small, sharp edged but fragile gravels of granite rocks, which came in two colors, purple and yellow, complimentary colors.
I sat down on a large purple rock and noticed that it was actually a deposition of fine sheets of the granites, which seemed easy to break off and become perfect flooring material on the trail.
Catching my breath from the cardio exercise, I looked beyond the hill and got sucked into the grand view of far mountains, so far that all was hazy. I chewed on a cliff bar and threw some “My Mint” brand Thai soft candies in my mouth and stood up.
Next to me was a steep, not a slope, a cliff that led to the summit, which was hidden away from my vision. The cliff was colored in a combination of mixed spots of dark brown shades within a majority of rough orange surface. It is another type of granite, I was sure.
Types of vegetation were suddenly changing too. Lots of trees were either boreal conifers or regular hardwoods with leaves starting to turn yellow and orange for the autumn had already arrived in the mountain climate.
It was a pretty hard climb at this point. I had to be conscious about three-point support of the body to control my climb. If this were in Japan, such sheer cliffy trail would be all furnished with chains and poles, but none were present here. Since the trail was not trafficked at all, so in my own pace, I was able to climb up the rocks without any trouble.
I got there. The summit area was about 50 meters of somewhat open field, but the looks can be deceiving because it was made of coarse three feet rocks with thousands of empty spaces between. You could easily slip and fall into that and be injured. I carefully approached the very top of the summit, which was indicated by a UP Postal mail box with an American national flag.
I gained about 2,000 meters of elevation in 2.5 hours to reach the summit at 2,751m.
When I released my hand and looked up, the vast 360-degree view of infinite green hit my eye, strong. As if looking down to it, I was able to grasp Salt Lake City, the Great Salt Lake in far foggy distance, and the mountain range that extends into Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, and even beyond. Air was fresh and tasted so great. That was a worth-hard-hike view, a reward only to me. My Nikon D810 could not grasp the absolute realism that was in front of me. I sat on a rock and just spent time absentmindedly.
Time went by, my sweat soaked technical t-shirt was already dry from constant crisp breeze. I was contemplating on nothing. Absolute Zen mind. I was awakened only by somebody’s voice from some distance, asking me to take their photos.
It was a group of three girls whom I passed along the way. They were fast and almost the same pace as I was going at it, so without any intention, I heard their conversations about their boyfriends and husbands n all, so I supposed that they were in their 30s. I could be wrong. Anyway, they were definitely fit and happy. Anyhow, they asked me to take their pics, so I did several times. Then, they saw me with a huge full-size camera and asked me if I was from Salt Lake City because they are. Inside of me was asking, is it possible that some random white girls would ask a totally-Japanese-looking person if I was from here? Because, wherever I go even in Asia, people know I am Japanese, and I am usually a bit turned off by it.
Anyway, I just told them I am going back to Japan next week, and I was just there after attending a business convention in the city, which was not whole a lot of lies, but I definitely bailed on it today.
That led me to think of the time I’ve got. I looked at my Suunto watch and found out it was time to descend so that I could still make it to the convention in the afternoon after doing all shopping I needed to do at outdoor stores.
As I made my way back towards where I thought I came from within thick pile of large rocks, I looked down my foot and noticed mud floor was visible inside some spaces among rocks, so I reached my arm and picked up a few granites as my own collection to add back home. I know it was not a good deed at all, but it has been my habit for all my life as far as my memory goes back. I carefully picked out small rocks whose majority of surface was either white, black, or orange, three iconic features of rocks on the summit.
Climbing down was harder as it is commonly understood as really is so if you know about mountain hiking. I carefully placed my three points of support on the slippery rocks that are so steep that you could not see the bottom of it, nor could any other option of body orientation possible but facing backwards so that your legs were grasping the edges of cliff nice and firm.
Still, there were some folks with a dog accompanying the party climbing upward against me descending. I was kind of amazed by it, but they said the dog got a lot of help if I knew that they meant. They surely looked much more fatigued than me. Good luck, I said and kept on getting lower in order to give them more space.
Now, the surrounding environment was getting all kinds of direct sunshine because the sun had already reached the position up high, coming down on us hard. When the muddy ground whose sides and bottoms were wooded and brushy appeared again, which meant I had descended about one quarter of the whole way, the temperature seemed have soared about 10 degrees higher and muddy as hell for all the dawn moisture on leaves and grass were evaporating. There was no way to start the ascent let’s say two hours after I did.
However, I still kept encountering even more hikers there, and they without a doubt showed more desperate faces fighting for something. Their smile looked as though merely a wry grin. When I was back to 1,700 or 1,800 meters of altitude, which meant I had come down to about one third of the way, some young girls in their inadequate outfits nor any right equipment asked me how much more they had to go, so I told them quite a lot, about two thirds more, but it gets harder up there.
When I got to my Nissan, the femoral muscle on both legs were wobbly and felt like going off my knees. I definitely over-paced my descent because I did not want to waste the time of the rest of the day. This particular preference can be critical weakness if I were doing serious mountaineering in the snow-covered alpine mountains above four-thousanders.
Inside of the car was a hot sauna, stunk of damp tortillas with salads and meats going bad and sour cream becoming sourer. I put them in a plastic bag and sealed it and drove off to the nearest road. There were a lot of cyclists in groups headed southward, coming my way. This uphill traverse looking down onto the suburbs of Salt Lake City and the way into the desert must be the course of choice by local cyclists. When was the last time I cycled?
Below my sight above the steering wheel began to blink of an alert all the sudden, indicating I have low air pressure in my tires. You got to be kidding. Well, it is a rental car, so how much maintenance could I ask for. I held my Huawei P10 and punched in additional location before the destination.
It was Chevron gas station I was able to find in a quarter mile. I got outta car and sniffed the smell of sun blazed mechanic oil or some kind of engine grease around. I grabbed the air pump and looked for a barometer, but it was an old kind. No barometer was furnished with it. I twisted the rubber caps open, I shoved the pump onto the nozzle, but it did not give the resistance feeling, and I thought air was not going in. Well, I could be wrong because I only knew the sensation of it from pumping my road bikes.
There was not any way but to test all four little by little until the alert went off. I took my time and started to count 30 seconds to pump each tire. Then, a random car approached, and a middle-aged guy came out and started to wait for the pump with a smile on. I said give me a second, and I went around to the other side and finished the 30-second guess of inflating.
I gave the pump to him and noticed he had a barometer that he could relay between the hose and the air nozzle. I got on the car and started the engine and the sign was gone. I took a deep breath.
REI was near. I swung by and bought an MSR IsoPro fuel for the camping to come and some kids’ national park ranger gear for my daughter. I hope she likes ‘em. It turned out I had a membership from like 10 years ago from the LA branch. Once you become a member at REI, it is permanent until your funeral.
My stomach was growling. Inside of heated car waiting it to cool off, I looked for a restaurant nearby and found Wasatch Brew Pub. I sat at a counter and ordered local draft IPA and cup of chili and chips and salsa. I wanted to try another pint, but I felt the alcohol had some effect on me because my body was fatigued, so I stopped there for safe driving.
After getting some crazy deals at Patagonia outlet store nearby, I stopped at a used clothing store called Uptown Cheapskate around the Vivant Arena and found an old Avengers t-shirt for $5 and continued my way back to the Airbnb.
It was a surprise, but she and her friends were already back. I was texting with her using Messenger app, but there was never any clear updated information from her end although I was letting her know exactly what I was doing from fixing the low air pressure, camping stores, and lunch. I was then instructed to take a shower in 5 minutes because they wanted me to drive them to the factory of the pharmaceutical company in order to purchase things that they could not buy in Thailand.
I rushed and cleansed myself and put on the Avengers t-shirt and got outside to the sidewalk they were waiting on me. Nobody asked how my hiking was.
We walked 100 feet to the car, and I started the car and tried to turn right onto the street.
But, one of the guys said, “no, turn left.”
So, I said, “taking right is better to go to the factory.”
”No, we are not going there, so turn left,” he said.
Totally being puzzled, I did but saying “where the heck are we going?”
”To the convention.”
”Oh…okay” I said and thought another change of plans without my knowledge, without being discussed.
Folks talk in their language all the way all the time, and there was just no room for me to know all this. I was just a driver to them, I felt.
There was no parking in front of the Salt Palace Convention center, but we’d got an eight-month baby with us, so I just drove right up to the main entrance and escorted all the members out and continued on the street until I saw a parking space.
I followed them inside to the convention center and sat with them. and listened to more inspirational speeches and successful stories that could help junior sales associates’ climb up the ladder and other miraculous episodes of people’s recovery from illness or injuries or deformity or anything that can buy more tears and sympathy. I could not buy any of them. That was my ego. My mind was not in the right place.
I told her I needed a breather. I stormed out of the room, stepped downstairs and got outside into the hot air, and kept on walking without any plan, far, into the Union Pacific railroad station-turned entertainment and shopping complex, having a seat at a North Temple station, searching where my heart was, but in vain, I was lost and crossed the bridge, and I disappeared into the dusty streets that ultimately blended into nothingness.
But, before that happened, she called me and called me back to the Arena. As I awoken myself, I pretended as if I was just around the corner from them. I ran and sprinted as fast as I could in order to save me from a scrutiny or an explanation, which to me was unthinkable at that time. All I remember was that I was still trying to keep my dignity regardless of my outburst of emotions which I was sure they all sensed and disgusted by it already. I was rotten. I was crying for some kind of respect, respect for my existence, which in other words, was a simple acknowledgement. It really was.