"Is that you, Shorts?" I shouted, standing next to his hastily abandoned pack.
"Chafage? Now's not really a good time," he responded, sounding somewhat anguished. This may or may not have actually happened.
"I know, I was just wondering if you were going into Helen with the Wolfpack," I asked.
"You mean the German couple? I don't know," he replied. "Now will you kindly leave me alone?"
"Sure," I said, thus reassured that he was definitely hiking on. "See you later!"
Bandito, Jason and I decided to camp at a place called the Cheese Factory Site. To our dismay, it turned out not to be a fully functional cheese factory handing out free samples. There were no majestic, moss-covered ruins, no derelict warehouses, not even a cracked, crumbling foundation. There were hardly any signs that anything of consequence had ever happened there at all, except for the vestiges of an old access road that we feared would turn into a nocturnal thoroughfare for drunken rednecks hell-bent on terrorizing sleeping hikers.
It started to rain. We pitched our tents under the cover of some rhododendron trees, scarfed down a quick supper, and then threw our bear lines. Or tried to. I failed miserably, despite having the requisite hundred feet of nylon rope that the salesman at REI insisted I have for exactly this purpose. Bandito defused my burgeoning homicidal rage by kindly letting me ride shotgun on his rope, and we hung our food bags together. It being cold, wet, and rather miserable out, we all decided to turn in with a minimum of fanfare.
I sat in my tent with the fly open, watching the rain and the trail until it got dark, waiting in vain for the others to arrive. They never did. Heartbroken, I came to the sobering realization that the people I thought loved me in fact only cared about themselves, and that trying to make or maintain any lasting human connections, on the trail or otherwise, was an inherently self-defeating and pointless enterprise. I slipped into an abyss of despair, and a vile, indiscriminate bitterness overtook me. That night changed me forever. I was no longer a human being, but a spiteful, remorseless vessel of hatred who would tear the world down around him rather than let anyone get close to him again.
From then on, I was out there to make miles, and that was it.