I just hate being the newbie. I can guess what you are thinking, who does, Danny Boy? Point well taken. With introvert tendencies, I want to get past the initial awkwardness when we play pickleball at a new venue. Showing modest courage, I suck it up and walk through these self-doubts to play when we travel; with Hannah, I’ve been that newbie in White County, Georgia, Santa Barbara, California, Moab, Utah, and Beaverton, Oregon.
Approaching 70, I love hiking with Hannah and playing pickleball. There’s a significant difference between the two; hiking is an activity where we are not competing, just completing. (Like that little word play? As you can probably guess, I do!) Man and women v. the mountain or canyon. While pickleball is mano y mano, a competitive contest.
That said, with two years of experience on the court, Hannah and I do love us some pickleball. Whenever we play in a new venue, I wonder if my play be good enough? It’s a self-imposed pressure, I get that. When I pickle, I just want to work on my game with good folks. That said, I prefer not getting crushed when I play. I am not a tournament player; I am what you would call a recreational player, who loves to compete and improve.
After yesterday successfully navigating a late summer snowstorm through the Donner Pass in California, this late September Friday Hannah and I are looking for pickleball love in Reno. Who knew Reno, a town of 250,000, would have five venues for pickleballing? Feeling confident, Hannah and I select the one site that is specifically for advanced players. How is that for introverted-ness chutzpah!
Arriving at the indoor Evelyn Mount Recreation Center in Reno, we hear the pickleballs beyond the gym door. Stepping into the gym, Mark introduces himself and says there should be lots of play since not many are here. While eight others play doubles on two courts, Hannah and I set up a third net and begin to rally. Soon Chad and Pete join us, and play begins.
Within the first hour we are reminded of why we love pickleballing. One is that the overwhelming majority of pickleball players are friendly and welcoming, which these Reno players certainly are; and two, Hannah and I love whacking the wiffle ball with damn good players. By no means are we better than the top players, but we are in their range. After two hours of play, we feel like part of the group; taking a big risk, we ask for a group picture. But… we are not so bold to ask for a group hug.
It is not lost on us how fortunate we are this morning to be in Reno rather South Lake Tahoe, our planned destination. After hiking in Yosemite National Park yesterday, we had planned to go to South Lake Tahoe through the Sierras to play outdoor pickleball. Since the cold and snow kiboshed that plan, we took the long way around to our new destination (Reno), 300 miles by way of Sacramento. This morning, in the town of South Lake Tahoe at 7000′, pickleballers, if there are any playing, are outside in the upper twenties. Ouch! Today, we hit the jackpot playing in the warmth of the indoors with a good bunch of women and men.
As for being the newbie? I just walk through any self-doubts or fears and come out the other side better than I went in. Just got to remember that.
At noon, we head to the Hunter Creek Trailhead at 5000’, not twenty minutes away in the nearby mountains. Booting up, we have three miles of hiking to the Hunter Creek Falls in the Toiyabe National Forest. It’s a brisk 48F, and later on the trail we see yesterday’s snow high above the valley.
Knowing that there are some water crossings as a part of this trail, we find the first, not 100 yards into the hike. With large stones and branches over the white water of Hunter Creek, we have 25’ of river fording ahead.
Finding a staff-like branch for me to use to balance my way across the creek, Hannah watches me first teeter then settle, finally making my way above the six inch rushing waters. With her surgical repaired left knee (a skiing accident) and left thigh stitched together in a Santa Barbara emergency room (a fall off a mountain trail), Hannah deftly makes her way across the crick, and soon, we are on our way.
Keeping the creek to our left, the Hunter Creek Trail is obvious. From dirt to loose rocks, we are rocking along, warmed up after our morning pickleball. Never perilous, the trail has expansive views of the neighboring mountains and the Hunter Creek Valley. From grassy hillsides, we eventually turn into the forest. There, we have two more creek crossings, but they are stone-stepping-ly easy to navigate.
With the roaring creek to our left, eventually we must cross a 30’ log, eight feet above the stream. Eighteen inches in diameter, the log is our only passageway to the falls. Hannah crosses first and then I take the babiest of baby steps inching my way across, only staring down at the log before me. Piece of cake.
After hiking three miles in 80 minutes, we hear, then spot the 45-foot Hunter Creek Falls. Unfortunately, a leafy tree has fallen to block a full view of the falls. The Chamber of Commerce needs to do something about this visual. Nonetheless, check out the falls video.
Now at 6300’ with cooler temperatures, we have gray, could-rain clouds above; cooled off noticeably during the ten minutes hanging out at the falls, we about face and beeline it back to the trailhead.
Seeing what might be rain/snow clouds above us, we increase our stride length out of the mountains. Navigating the two easy creek crossings, we soon are out beneath the threatening clouds into the sunshine.
One last obstacle – the initial 25’ roaring Hunter Creek crossing. Hannah goes first, but something has changed. The large branch is wobblier as she tries to cross to the other side. She wavers and wobbles, then steadies herself. Hoping she will just step into the 6” stream of smoothed rocks, I see her continue to teeter, pause, and pause some more. The five-foot downstream drop-off into the rocky, soaking abyss makes me shudder. Balancing precariously, she inches forward.
Finally, she makes it to the other side; but she has made my choice of creek crossing an easy one. I just stomp into the turbulent stream and walk across, soaking my socks and shoes while maintaining my dignity.
With soaking feet, I’m a believer (a la the Monkees). When in doubt, balancing on river stones and well-intentioned logs comes in a poor second to just tramping through the stream itself.
What do you know? Semi-maturing at nearly 70! It’s never too late.