Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chapter 46: Partnership

The Thru Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the definitive compendium of all knowledge in the universe, defines decibel thusly:
A decibel (dB) is one tenth of a bel (B), i.e. 1B = 10dB. The bel is the logarithm of the ratio of two power quantities of 10:1, and for two field quantities in the ratio √10:1. Whatever that means.
The omnipresent ambient noise of the wilderness--the quiet gurgle of a stream, the lamenting creak of a tree acquiescing to the quiet whistle of the wind, the cheerful chirping of far-off birds, the low buzz of innumerable insects--is 20 decibels, barely louder than a whisper. The sound of leaves rustling beneath one's feet is 40 dB. Due to the decibel's logarithmic nature, that means that the rustling leaves are 100 times louder than the natural ambience of the wilderness. The pitter-pat of rainfall, at 50db, is ten times louder than the rustling leaves.

Moving away from more natural examples, a car driving at highway speeds generates about 65 dB of noise. Bars and dance halls often restrict their volume levels to 90 dB, to prevent hearing damage. On this particular night, I felt like P-Nut's snoring was about 240 dB, or the equivalent of an AC/DC concert held at JFK International Airport at rush hour. During a nuclear war.

What was curious about all this, however, was that, when I first met P-Nut, he didn't seem to snore at all. He had started snoring more noticeably since then, but never so objectionably. I couldn't understand how this transformation had taken place, and spent much of the night contemplating it.

At about 2:30 in the morning I gave up, grabbed my stuff, and headed outside to cowboy camp on the lawn. I found it actually very comfortable there, underneath the stars, despite the freezing temperatures and the thick layer of frost that soon encased my sleeping bag. And I slept well, if only for about four hours.

I awoke shortly after dawn to the distant crowing of roosters. Muttering murderous epithets, I hung my sleeping bag on a laundry line to dry out, and waited for the others to rouse. P-Nut was particularly incredulous when he discovered me outside.

"I thought I didn't snore," he said, "And then it's like, okay, maybe I snore a little, and now I'm driving people out of free hostels?"

For some reason, I found his bafflement hysterically funny. Maybe I needed more sleep. In any case, we laughed about it then, and continued to laugh about it later. In fact, I'm still laughing about it, though by now I've forgotten why.

P-Nut, Nature, Alphabet and myself found getting back to the trail much easier than hitching into town. Probably because we went to Jerry's Kitchen for breakfast, and Susana offered to give us a ride. We only had slight 14.5 mile ambitions for the day, however, so we were in no hurry. We milked our last moments in civilization, taking our time to enjoy ourselves, and our meal.


If one of the worst things in life is listening to P-Nut's nocturnal impression of a Harley Davidson falling down a flight of stairs, then one of the best things in life has to be reuniting with old friends. Even if it's only been a matter of days since you've last seen them.

Partnership Shelter was another multi-story affair, nicer than most, complete with a "solar shower" and a sink with potable drinking water. The ground floor had been entirely claimed by a group of grumpy septuagenarian section hikers, who clearly didn't appreciate their space being invaded by a bunch of smelly, rambunctious youngsters. Fortunately, we came in with reinforcements, in the form of Redwing and Lil Dipper, and it wasn't long before Caboose and Spark showed up as well. By the time Hobbes, Caveman, and Bandito joined us later, we outnumbered the old fogies by a healthy margin. The crowd-averse Hobbes did eventually leave to stealth camp somewhere with more privacy, however. But not until after we ate our pizza.

Did I mention we ordered Pizza Hut? Well, we did. It was the first thing we did after arriving. We got something like eight pizzas and just as many servings of breadsticks for the eleven of us. I split a large Veggie Lover's® with Nature, and we shared an order of breadsticks, although she ended up giving me the majority of hers. Bandito couldn't finish his large cheese by himself, so I helped him out too. The best part was, after eating the equivalent of one whole large pizza and half a dozen breadsticks, I didn't even feel nauseous, I wasn't constipated for a week, and definitely didn't have explosive diarrhea later.

But I digress. Before the lot of us succumbed to food comas, we managed to commandeer the camp fire the old fogies had started. Caboose went off to take a shower. His girlish screams from the shock of the cold water jarred the fillings from my teeth. And then he was parading around half naked, just like the day I met him. Almost four weeks and nearly four hundred miles earlier.

Redwing let me borrow her ear plugs, perhaps as payback for me letting her borrow my fleece. The snores of the retirement community below us sounded like a high school orchestra playing Stairway to Heaven. Awesome. Plus, I was sleeping near P-Nut again. Aggravated, I went to sleep hoping tomorrow would be a better day.

It wasn't.

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