I am not a competitive person. Maybe most people say that who really are competitive. My daughter challenged me on this subject when she brought the grandkids down to the farm for a wienie roast. Holding her hot dog in one hand she looked at me archly.
“Oh mom, you are so competitive. You know that right?”
I shrugged. She sounded like the mature adult next to my adolescent resistance. I realized our roles were reversing again, and I hated when that happened.
Being competitive was a non-issue for me—at least that’s what I thought until I hiked the Bruneau Beast.
Every summer I climb what I call the Bruneau Beast, at 470 feet the largest free standing sand dune in North America. The Bruneau Beast is also a fun run sponsored by the Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park near Bruneau, Idaho. There are no footholds or gradual switchbacks to the top of this dune. Something to keep in mind if you ever decide to try it. It’s all slippery sand.
This year I climbed the Beast with a dear, old friend, Sue. Sue is usually game for anything, and like me, she enjoys playing outside and finding activities that gets her heart pumping.
“Just so you know,” I told Sue as we walked to the base of the dune, “my knee’s been acting up, so I might go a little slower than usual.”
“Oh, me too! I’ve got something wrong with my left knee. I’ll probably need surgery soon.”
Good, I thought. We’ll both be a couple of hobblers on the hill.
“So, you climb this dune every summer?” Sue asked.
“Yep, at least once a summer (as if I’d ever go up the Beast twice in a year even).”
“Wow,” Sue said, suitably impressed. I picked up my pace and tried to suppress the ensuing breathlessness.
Soon though, I fell behind Sue. How could she be so fast, I wondered. I was over six inches taller than her, which meant her legs were a lot shorter than mine.
The Beast hike seemed more grueling than usual. I bent over angled against the incline, and watched frustrated, as each step I took slid back halfway in the feckless sand. When I looked up heaving and panting, Sue was well ahead of me, pausing to look at the scenery. Or was she waiting for me to catch up? “Where’s the fire, Sue?” I muttered grouchily as I slung my tired legs forward. When I finally got within talking distance, I gasped out, “Sue! How old are you?”
She smiled quizzically, but I was determined to establish she was three years (THREE YEARS!) younger than me. Not only that, she and I both knew she was dozens of pounds lighter (not something I wanted to dwell on). These were significant differences that needed to be noted when hiking with a partner.
“Well,” I bent at the waist and placed my hands on my knees to catch my breath better, “Just wait till you’re my age and stage (Sue was apparently hiking with her grandmother). Then we’ll see how you feel climbing the Bruneau Beast.”
“Oh Di,” Sue tried to assure me, “This is really a tough climb. I’m too tired to fight the sand anymore. I think I’ll crawl the rest of the way up.”
“Crawl? Really? That’s a great idea!” Then we both happily dropped to all fours and stink-bugged our way to the dune ridge.
Sometimes you don’t know how competitive you are until you find yourself in a competitive situation.
To Sue’s credit, she didn’t seem to notice or mind her friend’s weird behavior. Going down the dune we laughed and sand-surfed on our backsides. At the bottom, I heaved one more deep breath, a sigh of relief, because this year’s hike up the largest sand dune in North America—was done.
Image Credit: Bruneau Beast
Image Credit: Dale Hooley (Diana Hooley climbing)
Image Credit: Dale Hooley (Diana Hooley at the top of the Bruneau Beast)