Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chapter 140: Major Chafage Returns

Which will aim to be just like "The Dark Knight Rises"—or whatever's the hot sequel du jour as you're reading this—only way more epic, awesome, and ultimately tragic.
August 4th, 2012

Well, I'm back on the A.T. again. Admittedly, it's only a single night engagement1, so maybe it doesn't deserve all the above pomp and circumstance...

And it's not gone well.

Megan and I have met three NOBOs—Sling Blade, Tantrum, and, erm, Other Guy—three SOBOs—I didn't catch their names, for some reason2—about a thousand mosquitos—all of whom loved to make our acquaintance—and more than our fair share of wayward, clueless day hikers.

Also, I believe Megan is plotting my imminent death.3 More on this in a moment.

Rest assured, loyal readers, it is very likely that I will not survive the night.

Let me count the dangers:

1) I have an inexplicable, pounding headache. Am I having an aneurism? Is it a tumor? Blood clots? Or has Megan poisoned me, sneaking arsenic into the peanut butter and Nutella bagel she (rather suspiciously) offered to make me for dinner? Or is it...

2) Those fucking bugs, beetles, birds or whatever the fuck they are making that incessant CHEEP-CHEEP-CHEEP noise just outside my trusty Tarptent?

3) Or maybe it's dehydration.

4) Megan insisted on eating a candy bar inside the tent, and is now in the process of sprinkling my side with crumbs. Is she laying bait, trying to lure a black bear to eat me? She remains mute on the subject, but I have my suspicions.

5) I have to pee.


UPDATE: 06:41, August 5th, 2012

Megan has "accidentally" elbowed me in the face about 50,000 times during the night. She blames the cramped quarters of my (come on, it's practically cavernous!) Tarptent. I blame her sinister, probably homicidal machinations.

My nose may be broken, but my spirit remains undaunted.

2nd UPDATE: 10:26, August 5th

About 200 yards from the parking lot, I tripped over a pebble and fell straight on my face, breaking my right foot, my left knee, both my elbows, and nearly every other bone in my body. However, instead of running to the car or to get help, Megan insisted on photographing the incident for posterity. I think she may have pushed me.

One last note: my 2012 northbound brethren have made the seemingly spontaneous decision—en masse—to call southbounders "Shortbeard[s]," which is both fantastically clever and somewhat annoying. In that I didn't think of it myself.

Also, whilst relaxing atop Bear Mountain, enjoying the view and some well-earned spoils, Megan and I overheard a SOBO telling a day hiker that "[I]t usually takes people four to six months to hike the entire trail. Old people do it in six months. Younger, actually fit people—who aren't old, decrepit cripples who should probably be sent straight to the ovens—do it in four."

See what I mean? Evil to the core. SOBOs ruin everything.

Oh, and one last, final note4: There are those of you who may wonder why I have not continued with the adventures of 2010, relating in exhausting detail how Fredo, Hot Sauce and I trekked from the Little Biggelow Lean-to all the way to the Pierce Pond Lean-to some 17.3 miles away. Where we were driven out of the shelter by some dastardly section-hiking snorers and forced to put up tents by the water's edge in an ethereal mist as loons sang hauntingly to us from across the water, blah blah blah.

There's a simple, probably pretty feeble reason for that: as my narrative reaches its inevitable conclusion, so, in a sense, does my journey. I really feel that as long as I'm not done with my story, I'm not done with the trail. As long as there's more to write, I have an excuse to travel back in my mind, to revisit those blissful days...

Or at least that's how I felt yesterday morning. Now I'm not so sure. One of the SOBOs we met—okay, he may have been a flip-flopper, given his conspicuous knowledge of trail conditions further south—was in terrible shape. His shirt and shorts were plastered to his body from sweat; he winced noticeably with every other step; and he carried a pair of soiled, grime-encrusted socks in a bungee cord on the outside of his pack, a very (horribly) familiar sight. And he was wearing the very same (horrible) Vasque boots that I started the trail with. Except for that he was evidently a southbounder—who are, lest we forget, the very worst type of person in the world, even worse than Nazis, religious fundamentalists, terrorists, bankers, and oil executives, if they can even be considered human beings—my heart ached for him. And I had no more trail magic to give, all the plums I had brought already given out to the NOBOs we had met earlier. Of course, I hated him, too. How could I not? But did I hate him merely because he was a SOBO? Or did I hate him because he so reminded me of myself?

Later that night, as Megan and I rolled into camp, bickering like an old married couple, drenched in sweat, surrounded by a cloud of hungry mosquitos, each smelling worse than a dead orangutan's ass hole, I had an epiphany: Who in their right mind would go through all this voluntarily? Again. And why? Were the fleeting moments of solitude, of physical and spiritual release, of emotional uplift, of communion with nature—and one's fellow traveler—really worth all the associated aches and pains, the itches, the bitter dissension, the petty jealousies, the panicked sprints into the undergrowth—trekking pole in one hand, toilet paper in the other—while trying to push from one's mind the overriding fear of shitting one's pants?

It was, once. But now?

I don't know.

1. Either as preparation for or in anticipation of a backpacking or maybe kayaking trip later this summer, Megan agreed to accompany me on a one-night camping trip to Bear Mountain, CT. We aimed to retrace my steps from Salisbury, CT to the Race Brook Falls campsite in Massachusetts, a seemingly unambitious 12 mile day. We got a late start, however, and for a variety of other reasons, which I will never speak of, only made it 4.2 miles to the Sages Ravine Brook Campsite, just across the state line.

2. Oh, that's right, I didn't ask.

3. This should not come as a surprise for those of you familiar with our earlier adventures in Europe. See my as-yet unpublished memoirs, "Memoirs of an Adventure," for further details.5

4. Really, this time. I promise.

5. Oh wait, you can't. (Yet.)