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Column: Girls on a mountain

Monday, Mar. 17 | By Julie Taylor
A Sunday morning, sunny yet freezing, huddled under a sleeping bag, just a few miles from all of the luxuries that civilization can offer, my sister and I fell into our most coveted form of conversation: joking about senseless issues, choking on laughter, then trying to be quiet because we were surely ruining the peace and quiet that other hikers were seeking. It was a typical Sunday morning.

We decided we needed an excuse to exercise and spend more time together. We both had varied schedules, so we settled on Sunday before church. We were no strangers to daybreak hikes; Old Rag is a mountain that we have trekked since we were tiny, but in recent years it had become so overcrowded that we would try to arrive around 3 a.m.

The plan was always to be at the top to watch the sunrise, but for some reason (it being so early that our fun friends were still awake) we could never quite make it.

So for our Sunday hikes up the nearby Bull Run Mountain I would pack breakfast and she would carry a giant Thermos. We would arrive at the parking lot around the same time with that tingly feeling. The one you get from being awake at an hour that doesn't jive with your normal schedule. That paired with the chilly morning air, and excitement about spending time with my sister made those dark mornings the highlights of my week.

The first time we did this, we each brought a change of clothes and our little makeup bags. A quick 10 minutes in the car in the corner of the church parking lot worked wonders before we went to church. The next week, we wore nicer pairs of jeans, and changed out of our T-shirts and trail running shoes. The next week, and the weeks following, we brushed on a little mascara and walked into church sweaty and dirty. Nobody seemed to care.

After hiking connected routes on a continual basis, we began to pick out a few landmarks along the way. We would pass the Tree of Gondor, and the frog pond (who's inhabitants we would mercilessly pester just so we could get a proper head count).

We once passed a humongous mushroom sitting to the side of the trail with a handwritten note stating that it was "Chicken of the Woods." I began to move toward it since I'll try pretty much anything once, but in a little-sister-turned-responsible move, she grabbed the back of my shirt and spoke some sense into me about the dangers of unidentified fungi. I argued that it was totally identified. She rolled her eyes and made me feel capricious so I reluctantly passed it by.

Off the main path we would see odd things, like a forgotten Easter egg, a 10-foot collapsed and weathered cross, and even a black widow, who was living up to her title (I'll spare the details).

At the top we were normally alone since it was so early, free to scrape the skin from our palms as we scaled rocks.

In colder weather we would bring a sleeping bag to sit on, and one to drape over our laps. We would shiver and giggle as we passed the 60s green colored Thermos cap-turned-cup full of steaming hot coffee mixed with hot chocolate.

We would comment on the view, and count the horses, which were barely visible.

We did this every Sunday for a year, until one week I was feeling exhausted just past the Tree of Gondor which was probably less than a mile in. I half-jokingly asked if the trail had suddenly become harder. Nope, just pregnant I later realized.

I had to scale back our hikes since I would wear out so easily. Actually I practically stopped altogether.

So last Sunday I strapped my eight-month-old into her Ergo carrier so I could wear her like a joey. Every curve, every incline, and every decline was familiar to us and taking in the view at the top was like visiting my childhood home.

My little girl had done this before with her aunt and mommy, but this time she was outside to enjoy it.

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