A blog dedicated to getting the most out of your backpacking trips and all your outdoor adventures
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Rules for Backpacking: The Unwritten Laws of the Trail
As I have previously mentioned in my little bio profile there, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2010 with one of my best friends. Along the way, and having spent over four months living in the wilderness I adopted and embraced a new way of life; a much simpler existence. It is the best way to live one's life and it is a shame that more people do not have the opportunity to experience what I did during that amazing adventure. I learned many lessons about my love and passion for nature, life, friendship, mental toughness, testicular fortitude, fulfillment, victory, defeat, excitement, and fear. These more personal matters may be slightly boring topics to discuss to the everyday listener so I will refrain. I have compiled a separated set of unconventional lessons that are as equally important that some people may overlook or may just not know. These unwritten rules will now be written down by myself so they can be forged as official backpacking rules so they may not be broken in the future. I know you are thinking to yourself as I often do when I hear the word rules, "Rules are made to be broken!!" As a sometimes mischievous and defiant adolescent I would rightfully agree, however, these rule MUST NOT be broken!!!!
It was funny to see how the relationship with my hiking partner changed throughout our adventure. In the beginning, we were still young, fresh, and full of vigor which quickly changed after making the arduous trek through the Great Smoky Mountains which leeched the life out of us each and every step until we were nothing but hollow, cold, and lifeless bodies with no energy or enthusiasm. We leaned on each other every step of the way whether physically pulling each other out of chest deep snow drifts (NO BS here!!) by the shoulder straps of our packs, or better yet, picture a dying person writhing in quicksand like in the old adventure movies as it so often happened with us as we would extend a trekking pole to one another in desperation to escape an icy tomb. Emotionally this was also a very trying period in our trip as well and we were sometimes questioning our early departure time, purpose for going, and whether it could possibly be any fun if it were not to change. We used each other as a mental, physical, and sometimes an emotional crutch as it was necessary to get through the tough early period of our thru-hike. We shared stories, food, taking turns making trips to the watering hole, and when the thought crept into our head as we would slightly start to warm up and doze of to sleep "Dammit! we forgot to hang our food" We even took turns doing that. At times when temperatures were dangerously low in the single digits and we were wet, we would sleep on the within arms reach or on the same side of the shelter in efforts to condense body heat as it so often was necessary in the brutal winter we were caught in - in our respective sleeping bags of course. These stories are often rebutted from friends with jokes and references to the cinematic disaster "brokeback mountain." We always laugh these comments off because we know that the ones saying them would have cried themselves to sleep out there or honestly wouldn't have made it at all - and most of them know that too. The bottom line is it was "one team one fight" Boomerang and Reckless vs. The AT and we strived and went out of the way for each other to make the trip more bearable and comfortable. We joke that the only reason we did it was because we didn't want the other person to get thoughts of quitting in their head. That surely was not the case. As most people know adversity brings people closer together and in the situation we were in it was necessary.
I'm not sure exactly where our attitudes changed but it was pointed out to us in Hot Springs, NC when my dad came to join us for a short section of the trip. He still to this day tells the story, which makes him laugh harder than it should, of a situation where the great irresponsible and often mindless "Boomerang" (trailname of the guy who accompanied me on the thru hike) failed to resupply on toilet paper while we were in town. This even happened after a couple friendly reminders from a one "Reckless" (my trailname). At camp the following evening Boomerang interrupted a very peaceful moment of relaxation with "Hey man, let me get some TP". Now the situation might have been a little different had he been a conservative wiper. The only reason I know this was due to his previous trips in the woods or to privies in which entire rolls of toilet paper would seemingly vanish in a single setting! I would have perhaps considered a loan for a couple oreos or something but it was time to teach Boomerang a lesson. I proceeded to decline his request for my precious TP on Day 1 of a possible 5 day stint in the wilderness so this was certainly a reasonable decline on my part. I think you would agree. This was answered with several "come on mans!!!" and begging pleas. My dad knew I was just giving him a hard time and I would eventually give in to my best friend's request who we had shared so many hardships already and had also been my right hand man for a few hundred grueling wintery miles. I knew I would not. Ten or fifteen minutes later Boomerang returned from his bathroom getaway clutching his trail guide and journal in his hand with a priceless look on his bearded face. My dad was shocked that I heartlessly made my hiking companion wipe his ass with pages he ripped out from his journal and trail guide. This proceeded for the next 5 days. It should be noted that when he ran out of pages from the trail guide from sections we had already hiked passed and he had to start using pages from sections we had yet to hike, I kindly allowed him to look on with my trail guide. RULE #1 BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER!!