The Happiness Inquiry

A teacher's quest to cultivate happy habits in her students

14: Reaching the Top

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According to my handy dandy fitbit app on my phone, on Saturday Greg and I had already walked 5 miles just exploring around Alesund and visiting a couple of museums. We were both feeling a bit rundown from a poor night’s sleep (it doesn’t get truly dark out in Norway this time of year, and I guess I’m just not used to it). A little midday nap was sounding pretty good come 5pm, but we only had one day in Alesund and I REALLY wanted to hike up the Sukkertoppen. I’d read that from there, you get a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean to the East, Alesund to the West, and a number of smallish mountains to the South. The pictures looked awesome. 

So we decided that we would head out to the “mountain” (it’s 300 meters high, or about 1000 feet, or like if you walked UP about two city blocks). The first 2 miles just to get to the trail head were not terribly pleasant; a slow trudge slightly uphill through a dingier part of town with limited shade on a very sunny evening. 

When we got to the trail, there were two locals ahead of us getting started on their hike. They looked like pros. One man, it turned out, was RUNNING up the path. Another lady, probably in her 60s, had her nordic walking sticks and went zooming right up. I figured it couldn’t be too bad at all! Wrong. I mean, it was doable, but by no means easy-peasy. After about 10 minutes of steady climbing, I realized I was pretty out of breath and extremely thirsty. We stopped for our first of probably half a dozen breaks on our way up. Along the way, we were passed by a number of more experienced hikers than us, all moving at a pace I couldn’t believe and many without even a water bottle! Halfway up, the running man from the beginning whizzed past us, presumably already having reached the top and headed back down again. I mean, I don’t think of myself as out of shape, but I think it’s fair to say that hills, whether on bike or on foot, have a way of wearing me out pretty darn fast. I guess this isn’t something yoga and Chicago biking has really conditioned me for, huh? Time to start running regularly again at the very least. 

The woodsy walk up before the rocks got really huge.

The woodsy walk up before the rocks got really huge.

On at least five occasions, I was sure that we had reached the top. The ground ahead appeared to flatten out and the sky opened up. A few steps later, I’d realize my foolishness. Ahead lay another uphill climb, this time with the added fun of boulders to clamber up instead of a root-laced path. I handled the disappointment with relative grace the first several times, but when we finally got to the pre-summit and I gazed up at the final 100 or so steep “steps” that lay ahead of me, I admit that I briefly considered calling good good enough. The view by then was pretty sweet, after all. But luckily I do have a stubborn side and was pretty determined not to wimp out, and Greg wouldn’t have stood for it anyway—the guy is not a quitter. 

Anyway, I don’t want to give the impression that this was utter torture or anything. It was actually pretty enjoyable despite all of the panting and fear of running out of water (I had NOT brought enough—a 12 ounce bottle for the both of us, half of which was consumed on the too-sunny roadside walk to the trailhead). The scenery was beautiful the whole way up, though, and the forest smelled unreal.

So I dragged my sore legs up the last 20 meters, and then I saw the real view. Like, 360 degrees of gorgeous deep blue water and dark green hills everywhere you looked. It was the closest I’ve experienced to being on the top of the world, I think. 

What do you say? Does it look like it was worth all the effort? 

Ahh....

Ahh….

Looking back the way we came--whoa!

Looking back the way we came–whoa!

Sweet, I have arrived.

Sweet, I have arrived.

Greg learns about each little island by using this neat device--just line it up to the one you want to know about, and get its name and distance from where we're standing.

Greg learns about each little island by using this neat device–just line it up to the one you want to know about, and get its name and distance from where we’re standing.

One of Greg's expert panoramas.

One of Greg’s expert panoramas.

The day Greg learned how to take a selforama. Pretty groovy trick, eh?

The day Greg learned how to take a selforama. Pretty groovy trick, eh?

Oh, and check it out—after the walk back, and then to and from dinner, when all was said and done, we had walked 32,992 steps, or 13.98 miles. Not bad for a day of vacation! In the end, I was pretty glad to have done it and am pumped for another hike when we go to Colorado in three weeks. 🙂

Author: henrykat

I am a middle school special education teacher in Chicago. I was fortunate enough to receive a Fund for Teachers grant that allows me to spend a month in Denmark, considered to be the happiest place on earth. I hope to use my experience to inspire my students to make choices that will increase their personal sense of well being.

One thought on “14: Reaching the Top

  1. Wow! The scenery looked so beautiful!

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