Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chapter 138: The Half-Gallon Challenge, Part II

In these trying times it's important to remember that for every low, for every time you feel lost in the wilderness, alone, bereft and hungry, sobbing quietly over your last package of Frosted Rainbow Cookie Sandwich PopTarts™, there will be a corresponding high, when you'll emerge from the trees, the fog will lift, and the sun will rise before you like the unseen face of God.


Like the Trail, life is full of ups and downs, MUDS and PUDS1, triumphs and tragedy.2

At some point during my childhood, I learned how to tie my own shoes. Triumph.

It probably took me longer than most other kids, though. Just one of the original contributing factors in my life-long bout with low self-esteem. Tragedy.

In the sixth grade, I played the drum set during our school band's performance of "Gonna Fly Now," the theme song from Rocky. Triumph.

On the first day of school in seventh grade, I came down with appendicitis, barfed all over myself in front of the entire cafeteria, and almost died.3 Tragedy.

However, during my recovery, my aunt introduced me to a life-changing invention: the VCR. Oh, and also the comedic stylings of Mel Brooks. My life would never be the same. From that moment forward, I dreamt of becoming a writer. Triumph.4

In the eight grade, I asked out Amber Castle, and she said "sure." Triumph.

Three days later, she dumped me. Tragedy.

But then we went to Homecoming our sophomore year, made up, and made out. Nice! My first kiss. Triumph.

Except for not, because I may have accidentally chewed on her face and given her a fat lip, and why did I bring this up? Also, I'm a jerk. Tragedy.

Senior year, I started dating this girl who turned out to be kind of a whore. Tragedy. Wait, what am I saying? Triumph!

Terrorist attacks. War. Natural disasters. Tragedy.

I used the line "We should do this again sometime" on a girl without wanting to kill myself. Triumph.

A few years later, I found out that, unlike Frank Sinatra, I couldn't make it there. Goodbye, New York. Tragedy.

And on August 14, 2010, I successfully ate a half-gallon of ice cream in less than an hour. Triumph.

Yeah, I bet you were wondering how I would bring it around to that!5



That morning, Fredo, Buckeye, Lutricia and I broke camp, hiked over North and South Crocker Mountain,6 and then hitched a ride into Stratton to stay at a motel.

The motel, a fantastic establishment that should be frequented by everybody—or at least those who don't suffer from acute arachnophobia, but that's another story—was, by happy coincidence, located right across the street from a supermarket. Convenient. Realizing that this might be our last opportunity, Buckeye and I spontaneously decided to re-attempt the half-gallon challenge. Or in Buckeye's case, attempt for the first time. Our flavor of choice? Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. Fredo got a strange Grape Nuts® flavored ice cream. But then again, Fredo wasn't so keen on the whole challenge. Naturally, he wound up losing.

The rest of that afternoon/evening was a blur of cooking—the four of us collaborated to make an elaborate burrito dinner—drinking, and watching "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace" on VHS.

Although it was the first day I'd spent on the trail with my sister, it was, ironically, almost be the last we would spend as a foursome. Buckeye had arranged to stay behind the next morning to wait for Veggie—long lost Veggie!—who was bringing him his beloved Ohio State bandana. (He'd left it behind in a shelter a couple days before.) So, perhaps it was only appropriate that we shared this last supper, toasting each other with bottles of Bud Light Lime.

While contented, it was with a certain amount of melancholy resignation that we all turned in that (fateful) night. For some reason—there either weren't enough beds, or maybe there was just one too many snorers—I ended up sleeping downstairs, sharing the couch with my regrets, my secret ambitions... And a giant, angry spider.


1. According to the Thru-Hiker's Guide to Whatever, MUDS is a handy acronym for "Mindless Ups and DownS." In the same vein, PUDS stands for "Plintless Ups and DownS." Did this warrant its own footnote? Probably not.

2. The trick is being able to differentiate one from the other. That's called "wisdom." I looked it up.

3. Of embarrassment.

4. Or is that a tragedy? Jury might still be out on that one.

5. Weren't you?

6. Actually quite a steep climb, as both peaks are certified 4000 footers. Although the summit of North Crocker Mountain—at 4,228 feet—isn't even above tree-line. For comparison's sake, the South Branch of the Carabassett River, where we'd camped the night before, was only at 2,100 feet.

Bonus triumphs, as per Liana's request:

It was a cold winter night. I lay on my back, watching the snow fall through the halo of a nearby street lamp. Everything was peaceful. Still. And quiet. And then she appeared above me, her face blocking out the light. "What are you doing?" she asked, her face inscrutable. Was she amused? Confused? Maybe a combination of both? ... Later, we made a snowman together, and threw snowballs at the stop sign on the corner. Not wanting the night to end, I invited her to go for a walk, but she declined, demurely. It was getting late. Uncertainty. Excitement. I watched her go. Then my dad came outside, and the two of us trudged down to the reservoir and back in the dark... I wonder if I'm the only one who remembers this. Triumph? ... Triumph.

Also, the first "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" movies came out within a month of my 18th birthday. Nerd triumph.

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