My pattern so far has been to get out of town every other weekend for an outing or travel. Last weekend, a group of us hired a car and driver to take us to a scenic spot out of town called Benxi 本溪. There is a famous cave with an underground stream that is supposed to be great. The cave didn’t seem appealing to me, because I’d been to Mammoth Caves National Park in the US, and I figured no caves could top that. Besides, I wanted to hike, and so did my boss, so we split up into two groups. My boss and I started exploring the area.
We wandered along the river for a while, then we saw a path going up the mountain.
I want to be very clear at this point that going up the mountain was my boss’ idea, not mine.
“Shall we?” He said.
Remember, this was his idea.
Mountain paths in China are pretty well constructed: usually they are a series of stone steps and concrete paths. Quite picturesque, and a little deceiving, because although it’s a nice footpath, you’re still going up a mountain, and mountains are tall and steep.
At several places along the path, there were little stone tables and stools, where you can take a break and maybe have a snack. At other places along the path, there are signs warning about falling rocks, and telling you not to linger there.
It’s just bad planning to put both a snack place and a falling-rocks warning in the same place.
Before too long, I realized that my boss was no longer right behind me. In fact, I looked back and couldn’t see him at all. So I developed a keen interest in a dead beetle on the path until I could hear faint wheezing sounds coming up the path.
The path got even steeper towards the top.
At one point, my boss said that he had to stop and take a rest. Which was fine with me, because as we sat on the steps, chugging water (it was very hot that day), we noticed that there were no sounds but bugs and the wind in the trees. It was exactly the escape from the city that I wanted. On the way up, we encountered only one other group of climbers, going down as we were going up. It was great.
Almost perfect, except for the growing concern about the health of my boss’ heart. I didn’t want to be that guy who killed his boss by taking him on some sadistic macho suicide mountain climb. I imagine it’s hard to get tenure if you have a registered boss kill. Kind of a career stopper.
Anyway, we finally made it to the peak. There was an observation tower at the top. Most of the view was obscured by the trees, but we were able to see some nice views.
We relaxed on the tower, had some snacks, and pretty soon I heard faint snoring from my boss. He took a little nap up there.
On the way down we took another route, which ran along the mountain.
Then the path went straight down. Just a continual flight of stairs from the top to the bottom.
About halfway down, I started counting steps, and hit 287 by the time I reached the base of the mountain. So I figure it was at least 500 steps down. If you have never climbed down 500 steps, you can reproduce the feeling by climbing down 10 steps 50 times. My legs felt like those deboned chicken thighs that you buy at the grocery store.
We made it back down, hooked up with the water cave people, and drove back to town. My boss napped all the way back, but he was at work on Monday, and he was still talking to me, so I guess my tenure prospects are still as alive as he still is.