Thighs and lungs burning, Emma heaved her body and day pack over the last curve of the hill before finally allowing her legs to collapse beneath her. She folded into a heap on the grassy slope, and she panted for several minutes to catch her long-lost breath. Once she settled, Emma gave a soft sigh of appreciation at the sight.
Hills of summer fields and soft fir trees rolled into jagged mountain ridges, and at the farthest point, grey-brown stone was capped with bright white snow and crystal blue sky.
Emma sighed again.
For the last day and a half, she had been hiking almost non-stop, and she was more than a little tired at this point.
The hotel she was staying at with her mother was also a spa, the Matterhorn Valley Hotel & Spa Hannigalp, to be specific. It was located off-road and owned by the same family for that last four generations. The surrounding landscape reminded her of the movie with Queen Latifa when she was misdiagnosed with a terminal tumor, so she went on her dream vacation to an isolated luxury hotel in the mountains with all her hard-earned savings. Besides that, though, it had an onsite restaurant, pool, sauna, gardens, steam room, whirlpool, and a masseuse.
So why the hell did she spend the last two days of her life hiking? Because she was a masochist.
No, not really.
Emma liked to hike, the scenery was crazy, and the trek was fantastic. She did bite off more than she could chew, however. She had decided to hike to Matterhorn peak from the hotel, but…it was 25 miles (40.1 kilometers) away. At a moderate, continuous pace, one way took nine and a half hours. One day there, one day back. Now nearing the end of her return journey, she was kicking herself for the cockiness of that plan.
All she had left to do was descend the final hill, walk her way through the cute little village, and into her hotel. Of course, she would then be required to fend off her mother’s knowing smirk and mock-innocent “how’d it go, sweetie?”
Still, though, making it back meant hot food, a hot tub, and maybe a session with the masseuse before her overworked muscles had the chance to get too tight.
Closing her eyes and deeply inhaling fresh mountain air, ignoring the residual burn in her lungs, Emma savored the moment. In all honesty, she loved the burn of muscles from a good, strenuous hike. It was weirdly and incredibly satisfying.
Oh, who was she kidding? She was a masochist. But just a mild one!
Gathering her strength and her dropped day pack, Emma stretched and twisted to reheat and loosen her muscles and then tromped down the hillside.
An hour later, she gingerly sank into the bubbling white water of the hot tub and groaned in delight.