Sunday morning we got up around 7:30, made some sandwiches, then headed up to Chipinque, a national park not 15 minutes out of town. The previous two days i'd already marveled at the mountains cradling the city, but little did i know what was to come. We drove to the highest parking lot, then shouldered our packs and began the hike to the peak. And boy did i have to work for it. Not 10 minutes in i was feeling like throwing up, wheezing for air and wondering if i would ever make it. From the first turn you are clambering over rocks and roots at a crazy gradient. This wasn't some tour bus rest stop trail, this was a steep, cliff-hugging hike where every step sent rocks tumbling and a mis-step could mean the end. For 3.5 hours. In 100F heat.
After the first hour i started to get into the swing of things - i was still hurting, but i was in the zone and just wanted to get to the top. The reward was breath-taking. My words will never be able to do justice to the feeling of pulling myself over that last lip and seeing La Sierra Madre Oriental for the first time - sheer mountains stretching as far as the eye could see. For the climb your back is to the city and occasionally you hear echoes of traffic or voices carried up on a breeze, but once you crest the peak it's pure silence. Suddenly an eagle flies overhead and all you can hear is the flap of its wings. A cloud hits the ridge below you and disintegrates, surrounding you in cool mist for a few minutes. You walk to the very edge of the cliff and breathe in the air and that's when you know this is what it means to be alive.
I didn't want to leave.
After a couple hours split between two different peaks, we jogged and slid our way back down in just two hours. I had rediscovered my hiking legs. Growing up mom and dad always took us hiking, a little in Europe and a lot more in New Zealand. Once i was a teenager that stopped, and barring a few light walks in California and Germany i haven't been since. That's got to change. Seeing nature like this... And alone too - we only saw one other group all day, and no-one at the peaks. Just wow.
For the longest time i've had a recurring dream where i'm on a hike in the mountains somewhere. I always come to a stretch where the cliff falls off on one side, and the only way to continue is to clutch trees and vines and pray. It's not a bad dream - i'm always scared, but i rarely fall. Although i didn't follow J on some of his free-climbing exploits (this time), there were a few spots along the "path" and a few places i slipped where it felt like i was right back in that dream. I wonder if i will have it again? I feel like it was calling me. I so much want to go back, be alone with the eagles and the clouds.
The tacos y cervezas we treated ourselves with (after a well-earned shower) tasted like heaven. I asked J if he was getting sick of eating tacos all the time, and he said no - you can never get sick of tacos. Fucking a. The further south i've gone, the happier i've been. The food, the architecture, the people... I'm on the plane back to Dallas right now, about to land, and as awesome as Texas is, i know i'm going to miss Monterrey. I only spent a handful of days there, butchering the language, getting drunk, eating tacos, dancing and laughing and making friends... but i found a part of me i'd long ago lost, or perhaps never even knew existed.