I haven't exactly had the opportunity either: wheelchairs and mountains do not make a good combination. But I do struggle with the restricted life of the stuck-at-home carer and the idea of escaping to the hills has become more and more attractive. I didn't know if I could make it happen though.
Then two things came together. Smiley was given a respite night on Holy Thursday, and I was asked to take part in the annual 20K charity walk in the Wicklow Mountains on Good Friday organised by @delganylady to raise funds for Irish Autism Action and My Canine Companion.
So I started to plan. Aspie boy would spend the day with his Dad, Angel decided to stay at home.
I asked a few friends to join me, but no-one volunteered. Hmm, I wonder why? I developed a sore throat, which meant no training was possible. So I arrived at the meeting point in Crone Wood on a bright Friday morning with no company, just my mobile, a large bottle of water and a packet of strepsils. Just after ten, almost 200 people set off in the sunshine...
Somehow I forgot to read the small print. I hadn't realised quite how far 20K is when you're on foot and walking over mountains. But it was an amazing experience. I met interesting people along the way, learned what a hydration bladder is - so many walkers looking like ghost busters piqued my interest. I also realised that turning 50 does not mean that life is over, even when you have two children with special needs. If I can do this, who knows what I might do next?
The walk did get more challenging after we headed above the snow line.
We walked through the misty marshes on the mountain tops. I felt like Frodo as I stumbled along over the sleepers, trying not to fall in the water and wondering what I would find if I did.
As we started to descend the views became magnificent, sometimes glimpsed through the mist, sometimes dark and brooding, sometimes bathed in sunshine, but each one was a different surprise and a reward for aching legs.
I was half thinking of stopping at the half way point, but when I arrived, I could see that was impracticable...with encouragement and chocolate from @delganylady I got going again. Many of the walkers took a lunch break at this point, but I had a nasty feeling that if I sat down, I would not be able to get up again, so I just kept on walking.
The second half of the walk was warmer and easier, but I was VERY glad to see the finish.
Delicious soup and sandwiches was provided by the pub, and the organisers had a minibus to take everyone back to the car park. It was just a brilliant way to spend a day in the mountains, knowing that everything had been organised for you, and raising money for two very good causes.
My mum and dad would have been proud.