Deciding to go on a hiking trip is a little bit like deciding to have another baby. You commit to the decision with excitement but once you find yourself exhausted, unkept, and being chased by bears you start wondering why on earth you made the decision in the first place. Then, after some time, you begin to enjoy the memories and forget the pain. Which causes you to agree to another hiking trip, or to having another baby. And the cycle repeats itself. (And no, we’re not expecting another baby.)
This is what happened to me when some friends from way back came up with the idea of going hiking.
“Hiking,” I thought,”Yea, that’d be fun to do again.”
When I was single and spending my money as quick as possible, I had procured some hiking equipment. It feels good to brush the dust and cobwebs off of the backpack and get ready for another adventure. I even found freeze dried food, canned tuna, and ramen noodles left in the backpack from last year when I went hiking. I wouldn’t even have to go grocery shopping. I was ready to go!
Bryan, my fellow apprentice at MMS Aviation, was also going along. We carefully calculated our travel time to the trail head where we were meeting the other guys, then figured in the approximate deflection of seasonal crosswinds across our windshield wipers, used those calculations to adjust our heading, carried the zero, and were an hour late. Still, considering the immensity of our calculations, it was an impressive we were almost on time.
The guys who were waiting an hour didn’t seem to appreciate our efforts. They’re very ungrateful and I’m not sure why I even hang out with such people.
This gang of hikers had all went backpacking before except Norman. He was convinced it would be fun. We were all convinced. We hoisted our backpacks to our shoulders and waddled down the trail.
It’s a scientific fact that when you put weight on your shoulders, your spirit deflates at an inversely proportional rate. At least that’s what I read on the internet. This explains how a child can weigh as much as a Buick in mere minutes. Norman immediately noticed this phenomenon and began commenting on it.
“Who’s chasing us? Why are we walking so fast?”
“I hate these shoes because every time I hike I wear them.”
“So you know what’s better than this?” Norman pauses for effect. “Everything.”
The best part of hiking is not hiking. Seriously. Setting up camp and lounging by a roaring fire after you’ve hiked 15 miles is the best. It’s far better than hiking 15 miles.
The second night we set up camp and started a fire and once again proved Patrick McManus right: A person stranded in the wilderness will find it impossible to start a pile of dry tinder and gunpowder with a blowtorch but a hapless passerby will burn down a swamp with a carelessly tossed cigarette. It’s true. Just strand yourself in the wilderness someday and try it.
After some time we started the fire using only the friction of the frustration inside our souls and extra toilet paper. It’s always a risk burning toilet paper to start a fire because inevitably you’ll warm up, wander into the woods to relieve yourself, and then find out that you burned one square too many.
As we settled around the flickering flames, a nicely groomed man with a nicely shaped beard bounced around a bend in the trail. “Hey guys!” He waved to us. He was barely breaking a sweat. In contrast, the fumes rising from our bodies huddled around the fire were causing birds to fall out of the branches from the trees above us. He probably wasn’t sweating much because his backpack was tiny and looked empty. Considering it was almost dark we were a little concerned for him
“Hey man, are you camping overnight?” Jeff asked.
“Where’s your tent and stuff?”
“Oh, my girlfriend is carrying the tent.”
Right on cue, a sweating girl carrying a huge overstuffed pack stumbled around the bend, her slight frame held up by shaky hiking sticks. She was huffing and puffing and had hair and leaves plastered on her face.
“Oh well, we’ll keep looking for a camping spot.” The guy happily bounces down the trail. His girlfriend summons some inner strength and drags herself after him.
We turn to each other. “Boy, why didn’t I think of that?” I said. “I should have brought Janice along.” We all laugh in disbelief. If I made Janice do that, she’d carry me off to the dog pound and leave me there for adoption, and rightfully so.
“Hopefully this is their last date,” Jeff says.
That night as we all rolled around trying to get comfortable, Norman looked at the stars and asked a question, “Hey guys, guess what we get to do tomorrow?”
We all listened for some exciting development.
We all sighed.
Just then a noisy group of chatty women decided to set up camp in the woods beside us. Jeff, who is (happily) married with two daughters and another child on the way, groaned heavily. “Come on man. I drove six hours and hiked twenty miles over mountains to get away from women. Now we have to listen to all these chatty sheilas all night.”
The last morning in the woods we awoke bright and early and hiked out as quick as we could to avoid an incoming rain storm. We met up and drove to the local diner at the bottom of the mountain. The waitress arrived with our piping hot breakfast just as rain began splattering against the diner windows. It was the single best meal of my life.
Here’s a video summary on the hike from my friend Andrew who runs a YouTube channel called “The Cheap Trekker.” He’s small time who wants to be big time. Subscribe to his channel and make rude comments. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.