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Uphill Both Ways

November 15, 2017

It was 23 miles. We were doing what’s called an “out and back.” That means you follow the same route in one direction for a certain distance and then you turn around and come back along the same route. Most of our trips during the year were out and back trips.

In September we hiked into the High Uintas of Northern Utah. An early fall storm had dumped 8 inches of snow. We broke trail on our way in, occasionally losing the path in the sparse underbrush and scattered pines. During our return the next morning, we simply followed our own tracks (minus the parts where we strayed from the path) back to the trailhead.

Our trip on Saturday was biking, not hiking. And the weather rather than snowy was a beautiful 60 degrees with clear skies. The trail we were riding was a former train bed. Over the eleven miles from our starting point to the midway point the elevation change was about 1000 feet. That’s not a huge number, but is also not terrible for an eleven mile ride.

It’s not terrible unless you do it wrong. Yes, there is a wrong way to do an 23 mile out and back ride. Last year we did it wrong. This year we did it right and although the distance was the same, it made all the difference. My dad used to tell me this story. In fact, all dads everywhere tell this story.

When I was a boy I had to walk 5 miles to school. . .uphill. . .both ways!

Of course, you can only walk uphill one direction. No matter how you look at it, “what goes up, must come down.”

One of my first jobs in college was working in the BYU Telephone office. Our team was responsible to install, remove and repair telephones in the student dorms. (Yes, this was in the days before cell phones.) My boss, a man named Mel Anderson, would occasionally go out with us on repairs. There used to be a set of student dorms called Deseret Towers. They were 15 story tall dormatories. Mel was not in the best of shape. The repair tickets for a single dormatory building might involve rooms on multiple floors.

Mel had a system. He would arrange the work orders by their floor starting with the highest. Then he’d ride the elevator to the highest floor, do the repair and take the stairs down to the next ticket and so on, ending at the bottom. Mel hated stairs, but he mostly hated UPstairs. He could handle DOWNstairs better.

We applied Mel’s lesson to the mountain bike ride this year. We didn’t think about it last year. Another thing my dad used to say,

You can drown in a lake with an average depth of three feet.

Even though our net gain in elevation was zero, it’s important what order we walk to school. You need to go uphill first. This year we had the boys ride the uphill section of the trip first when they were fresh in the morning. In the afternoon as especially the 12 year olds were starting to fade, we started them back down the hill. The boys fairly flew down the trail. Even the boys who were the most tired, finished the trip strong.

An out-and-back trip literally means we went uphill both ways. But, that doesn’t mean that both ways were equally difficult.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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