The Way Up


As I've said before, Kenyatta and I have a recurring fantasy of moving to Colorado. The East Coast is obscene with writers, and I'm pretty convinced that I'm missing something by living so close to my own kind. Nothing would please me more than to move to Leadville and dissappear. I'd likely have a serious barber-shop problems, since Leadville's black population appears to be somewhere in the neighborhood of three. But hey, nothing good comes without sacrifice.

Anyway, there are mountains out here that will convince you that there are no actual mountains back east, just hills. Beyond that, there's the sort of nature that will convince you that Central Park is not so much nature, as it is a small oasis among skyscrapers.

So there's this big mountain here in Aspen, big for me at least, which most people scale via the elegant gondola. I am deeply afraid of heights, but I don't like being punked (comes from my days being bullied) and so every year I come here, I insist on riding the gondola and scaring myself silly. Yesterday, I went up with my old friend Amanda. At the top, somehow, we got the bright idea to go back down, head to our rooms, get dressed and take the 4.7 mile hike back up.

This was not very intelligent. But it was incredibly wise.

I tend to do quite a bit of running. I'm not very fast, but I do have bad form. So there's that. Anyway, subconsciously I've come to connect speed with exertion, and being from the East, I have very little prolonged experience with what altitude will do to your system. Every year I'd see people hiking the mountain. From the gondola they seemed to move so slow, like figures buzzing across one of those old electric football games. 

"Can't be that hard," I thought. We estimated finishing the hike in under two hours.

It took us three hours. During that time, we encountered two storms. (It's against the code of effete East Coast liberals to check the weather) and then as we got to the top, we were flayed by pellets of hail  It's hard to understand altitude, if you haven't really pushed yourself against it. It lengthens everything. You get close to what looks like the end, but you're farther than you think, because you don't have the wind you had earlier, and the air is colder.

But we got to the top, totally out of ourselves. It was a fatigue beyond fatigue. Still, I was glad we had done it. So much of my physical fitness is artificial--gym, landscaped park etc. There's something about taking that fitness back to nature, something about applying it to a task that's ancient and real. 

The first thing I'd do, if I moved out here, is rip up my gym membership. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.


Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.


The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.


Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.


Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses


Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

From This Author

Just In