Always With the Trekking: Ruminations on Keeping Up With Lena

Of course Lena suggested trekking.

With the sure-footedness of a mountain goat and the muscular dexterity of a spider monkey (though thankfully lacking the discourteous habit of throwing feces), Lena is an intimidating trekking companion. While I spend weekends watching David Attenborough documentaries and adhering to a strict rotation of pajamas-shower-clean-pajamas, she’s scaling every peak and tackling every trail in southwestern British Columbia.

Even native Vancouverites aren’t that outdoorsy. (I’ve discovered they secretly prefer brunching on artisanal eggs Benedict and discussing hiking than actually setting foot in the wilderness, but don’t tell them I said that.) Not Lena. She’s been on the west coast for less than a year and already summited Mount Rainier, the region’s highest and most glaciated mountain at 4,392 metres. I’m sure it’s only a matter of months before a section of the Trans-Canada Trail is named after her.

“I thought about a food tour in Bangkok or scuba diving on one of the quieter islands. Yet Lena, being the proactive and productive morning person that she is, immediately responded with an itemized list centred on trekking.”

Except for athleticism, our travel histories have run extraordinarily parallel. We’ve met not, one but two of the same backpackers on separate occasions on different continents. We’ve both trekked in Nepal, although with drastically polar results: Lena’s expedition to Everest Base Camp was one of the most sensational and majestic experiences of her life. Contrast that with my excursion to Annapurna Base Camp, which was so gruelling and ridiculous that it inspired the title of my travel memoir, It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker—an entire chapter of which is dedicated to the unreasonable agony and gratuitous swearing that occurred while my friend, our fathers and I attempted one of the world’s most notorious treks.

When the Outpost publisher requested our input regarding activities for Tan Your Mind, I thought about a food tour in Bangkok or scuba diving on one of the quieter islands. Yet Lena, being the proactive and productive morning person that she is, immediately responded with an itemized list (presented in a digestible format with sub-headings and italics) centred on trekking. Trekking near the Burmese border. Trekking in the Himalayan foothills. Trekking in the northeastern forests. Trekking on the southern mountain. Trekking past Hmong and Mien villages. Trekking in a house, trekking with a mouse, trekking in a box, trekking with a fox…

Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy nature hikes, especially while imagining David Attenborough’s soothing narration, and am always eager for an adventure. But what if I can’t keep up with the woman who is so versed with crampons her party trick is a stroll across the ceiling (or so I assume)? I’m terrified my experience will parallel Homer’s in the episode of The Simpsons wherein he attempts to scale the Murderhorn: Lena will be the tireless Sherpa dragging me up the mountain and I’ll be the delirious buffoon relishing in my lightheadedness because it means “no heavy head to carry.”

D’oh indeed.