Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chapter 55: Yogi This

The Thru-Hiker's Handbook defines Yogi-ing as "the good-natured art of 'letting' food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (if you do, it's begging!)."

We were approaching a viewpoint near Dragon's Tooth. There were a lot of day hiker's about, but I wasn't paying them any attention. Bandito wanted to stop for a mid-morning snack, or maybe an early lunch. I didn't feel particularly inclined to join him. Maybe I was just in a pissy mood, still stung by my recent string of humiliations, or perhaps I was preoccupied with thoughts of Megan, and of how far we had yet to go. Maybe both. Or maybe I was just out of food.

"I'm all outta food, man," I lamented. "I'm just gonna keep going."

Bandito shrugged. And I turned to go.

"Hey!" came a voice over my shoulder.

It was a couple, about my age, sitting on a nearby rock.

"You outta food?" asked the man.

I nodded tentatively.

"Here," he said, going through his pack. He handed me an apple, some granolla bars, and a can of Coca Cola. "Stay. Eat with your boy."

"Really?" I asked, not believing my good fortune.

"Sure, it's no problem," grinned the man.

"Wow! Thanks a lot!" I said.

And that's how you Yogi.

"I get half," said Bandito later, as I cracked open the soda.

Yeah, right. I chugged my share and then gave it to him. "You get to pack it out."

The way down from Dragon's Tooth is a bit crazy. Fantastically steep but mercifully short, the descent is one of maybe three or four parts of the entire Appalachian Trail where the use of metal rebar handholds, while not strictly required, might be strongly suggested. I quickly came to the realization that using trekking poles here was more of a liability than a help. I stowed my Leki. My other walking stick, that I had just so recently picked out of a barrel at the Woods Hole Hostel, proved more problematic.

I looked down, and thought I saw a switchback below us. Figuring the trail looped around somewhere, I decided my best option was to drop the stick over the cliff, then pick it up later. So I did.

The trail went straight. Oops.

Bandito had his own bout with bad luck. On his way down, his sole surviving carbon-fiber trekking pole practically exploded, shattering spontaneously in his hands. Somehow, he managed not to curse. Or burst into tears. If I hadn't been sobbing in the bushes nearby, I might have applauded his reserve.

We sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" as we marched down to the parking lot, where we were greeted as conquering heroes by his awaiting parents, sprayed down by a nervous HAZMAT crew, thrown in the back of a pickup truck, shuttled to a general store in Catawba where Bandito picked up a mail drop, and then finally driven to a hotel in nearby Roanoke.

I didn't have any clean civilian clothes to change into, so Bandito's parents very thoughtfully went out to buy me some at a nearby Walmart while I showered. Then we did our laundry. Then we went out for some fantastic Indian food that Bandito was either too stubborn or xenophobic to try, his loss. Then we went shopping, and I bought a two pound, twelve ounce bag of Peanut M&Ms. Because really, why not? Then I talked to Megan on the phone and figured out that Memorial Day was on May 31st, not May 24th, and that I therefore had an extra week to make it to Harpers Ferry. And then we went to see Iron Man 2. And it was horrible. And then we returned to the hotel and promptly we went to bed.

And when I woke up the next morning, I couldn't really remember, but I had the vague feeling something important had happened.

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