Go hiking, they said; you'll do great, they said

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Steve Nash is pictured along a San Angelo State Park trail before tripping and face-planting.

Pulling on my backpack after a pre-summit water break, I stared up at the final thousand feet of the famed Emory Peak Trail at Big Bend National Park.

I was one tired Manly Man — the 10-mile-round-trip hike definitely earns its "difficult" and "strenuous" ratings — but the magnificent views even before the summit are the payoff.

So here's what really happened.

The location wasn't Big Bend National Park, but San Angelo State Park. The trail I traversed with Mrs. Nash and Miss Nash on a windy March morning was a fraction of the distance of the Emory Peak Trail, and it involved elevation changes of perhaps ... 10 feet?

Very suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, a rock on the trail reached up and tripped me. I believe the term for my disgraceful departure from controlled walk is, "face plant." I went sprawling, landing hard and flat, scraping my right knee and left hand after the wheels-up landing.

Based on the reactions of Mrs. Nash and Miss Nash, it appeared they were extremely startled.

And there's more.

The view along the San Angelo State Park trails doesn't change much.

A few weeks prior to that misadventure, I ended up flat on the ground while pretending to hike at Colorado Bend State Park. I think my foot got wedged between a couple of rocks on a part of the trail that kind of went up and down at the same time.

When I tried to take the next step, my foot didn't leave the ground, turning me into a top-heavy, out-of-control 179-pound object with nowhere to go but down.

As Gomer Pyle once famously said, "Look out, sergeant!" I kind of toppled over in slow motion, traveling backward and to the side, then onto the ground, where I kind of slid and skid until I was stretched out flat on my back.

As for Emory Peak Trail — never been on it. I have never even been to Big Bend. Mrs. Wife and I had planned a Spring Break visit to the great park, but we had to scrap those plans.

Here's what really happens when I go "hiking," and I use the word loosely. My version of "hiking" doesn't involve what I believe is referred to as "backpacking" or "wilderness," although I do own a backpack. "Hiking" for me involves basically walking along a well-marked path, with upward elevation changes to be avoided as much as possible. 

So it would not go well for me if I attempted a hike such as Emory Peak Trail. One issue would be the distance. Another would be the elevation changes. I've read online comments from hikers who say the final climb to the summit is not for the faint of heart or for anyone afraid of heights.

Would I say I'm "afraid of heights?" Define "heights" and define precisely what would be between me and a downward plunge lasting anywhere from a few to many seconds. That's why Mrs. Nash, Miss Nash, Ralph and I turned back when we'd nearly reached the top of the rock formation known as the Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon last year.

At Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado in August — accompanied by Mrs. Nash, Mr. Nash and Miss Leitner — the "hiking" (as I define it) was probably harder than any other trek I've made, due to the elevation above sea level and the elevation changes.

But at least I stayed on my feet.

From what I understand, Big Bend National Park is extremely crowded during Spring Break, resulting in long lines of vehicles and the congestion that brings. So perhaps it's best that our visit had to be delayed.

Mrs. Nash and I are going to get there either this year or the next. I've been looking up Big Bend hiking trails, and highlighting the ones that say "easy." The challenge will be to actually make a plan, as those trails are scattered all over a park that is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

We're also envisioning a trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and traveling a bit farther to Carlsbad Caverns.

In the Texas park, I see there is a little hike called the Guadalupe Peak Trail.

How hard can that be?