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  • deborahavant

All the other stuff

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

I blog in a number of places about "serious" things; my posts here are intended to be about all the other stuff - hiking, cycling, cooking, yoga, Rose...whatever suits my fancy. In a sense, all the other stuff may be as, or more, important than my "serious" work but I will leave that question aside and plunge right in.

I just returned from hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. We hiked 108 miles in 9 days, starling in Prayon, Switzerland and moving clockwise (against the typical route) through Italy, France, and back into Switzerland. We stayed in hotels so it was somewhat cushy. But we carried everything we needed in our packs and. mid-way through, got COVID, which was less cushy.

I was blown away by the sheer physical beauty. I know I respond to that from my experience in the Sierras and the Rockies but its was so much more. I can't even count the number of times I stopped, looked up, and said "oh my God" because there was really nothing else to say.

How I handled the physicality of the trek was surprising to me. I had some struggles before we left - a bout with dehydration and a flare up of the non-existent disks between several vertebrae in my neck. I was a little worried that it would be hard. But I felt great. It was almost like the harder the better. Straight up shortcuts? Alrighty! Want to go a little further? Or course! The hotel is not just a few more miles, but on the other side of a pass? Let's do it! I was always happy to arrive at our hotel (and especially to have a spritz) but I was also super happy while I was hiking, all the time - even (mostly) on the day we hiked over 17 miles. I don't always feel that way on day hikes. I wonder if the fact that I really could not answer email or otherwise "catch-up" on work affected my mood. But it has left me eager to do more of this.

The whole COVID thing was so complicated. Two in our party were worried on day 5 and then got tests and were positive on day 6. We have had false alarms so many times, I was sure they would be negative. When they weren't, what should we do? The CDC guidelines were not a possibility - hotels were booked, no isolation possibility. Did it make sense to take public transit home? Or keep trekking outside and mask when we couldn't? We opted for the latter and were fortunate no one got really sick, though we all got it except for the one who had it right before we left. I sometimes felt guilty - especially when I developed a cough. But on the other hand, it seemed that people were coughing and sneezing all around us and no one was wearing a mask. It is clear that people are dealing with COVID in very different ways and it is not so clear which way is right. As uncomfortable as it was, I felt like I learned something important about the complexity of our interdependence on COVID and the issues that arise from navigating it.

All in all, it was an incredible experience. So lucky to have Tom Biersteker to guide us, and such good sports to hike alongside - and it was fun to meet some newbies as well. I am eager to do it again and already looking into other treks we can plan.

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