Head pounding… Must get water… Camelbak… There you are… I’ma just bite into this real quick…
Cans. Everywhere. Hikers passed out on the ground outside of the shelter. I’m so glad I got my bed hung BEFORE I started drinking. I make a quick roll and plop out of my hammock, and snuck over to the shelter. Awake first for some reason again, I grabbed a dead soldier and rolled up a smoke to watch the sunrise. The night had kept this patriot cool, but certainly not carbonated.
Slowly, the dead began to rise and walk again. No one else joined me in the breakfast beer, but they were happy at the amount of damage we had put in last night to the stash. Still, there were about 20 beers left for the next round of thru hikers to enjoy.
Getting to the next stop, Twiggy and I decided to pull off at a roadside deli about a mile off trail. Another one of those strange small town America towns, with a Vet clinic, some kind of truck parts machine shop, and this deli and pizza shop on alternate sides of a small white-bricked duplex. And that was it again for another 5 miles down the road.
The deli looked like a typical convenience store. Overpriced snacks, Chinglishy household and personal goods, and Great Value car “repair” items scattered inside. The one exception was the full service Deli to the right of the cash register. The menu was wider then I was tall, with dozens on dozens of items available. Twiggy was not impressed, but I certainly was.
“You gotta get one of these breakfast sandwiches, they are killer up here in New England”
The first and most expensive one caught my eye, “The Grand Slammer”, packed with bacon, 3 eggs, ham, sausage, and a bit of cheese. Obviously, I need calories…
“Ketchup, salt, pepper?” The cashier asks me in the most neutral tone possible.
“No you can’t have ketchup with your breakfast! You put ketchup on EVERYTHING!” my Mom shouts from across the table.
“Dougy puts ketchup on his ICE CREAM” my 5-year old sister says, waving her fork at me.
“Mom, but I LOVE ketchup. I want to marry it! So why can’t I eat it on whatever I want?”
“Darling, you put it on turkey sandwiches, your macaroni and cheese, potato chips, broccoli, I don’t know what you don’t eat it with!”
“ICE CREAMMMM!!!” my other sister shouts, hurling a spoonful of scrambled eggs violently into the air.
“I’m sorry?”
“Ketchup? Salt? Pepper?” she enunciates.
I ponder over the course of my life so far up to this point. That deep elementary-age nag, my early obsessions with the red sugar sauce, pulls me away from the decision. Alas, somehow I muster the strength to say
A bagel is launched into a toaster, while various meats and the eggs are prepared. With lightning speed, the bagel pops just ever slightly toasted, a thin layer of catsup, salt and pepper hastily applied followed by the filling. I greedily snatch the sandwich from her hands.
Twiggy and I sat down to eat our breakfasts, making quick work of our New England delicacies. Whilst shredding our meals, Minnataur and her Uncles showed up, having just given her a very long and relaxing break from the trail. Good as new and ready to hike on again, she made a quick hello and was back out onto the trail.
We got to the next shelter and stopped for a break, only to “smell the impending doom” that was soon to come.
Only people who have lived outside for an extended amount of time can relate to this odd and innate ability to detect a storm that is close by. Being that we live, walk, and breath under the cover of trees, it’s very difficult to check the horizon most of the time for grey fluffys and black towers. However, there is a certain “feeling” the air gets. If you’ve ever seen a movie where the old man is sitting on his front porch when the wind picks up and the chimes start going to town, and then suddenly a tornado comes out of the sky and starts hurling trees around: it’s absolutely nothing like that.
Imagine an awkward silence: the birds have completely shut the fuck up. There isn’t a squirell or insect to be seen anywhere. The forest seems to carry this dead weight of a wind that’s just strong enough to be seen in the shaking of the trees, but weak enough to avoid feeling of the body. The light under the canopy of branches and trees changes ever so slightly. It could be either darker or lighter, but the one thing that is different is the complete loss of shadow. It’s as if whatever light source existed in the first place just completely diffused itself into every single air particle in the area. This strange hiker sense isn’t always accurate, but it’s enough to give us a mildly flavored decision.
Thankfully, we had beer so we spent most of the day just chilling and knocking beverages back and listening to music on my celly. Spirit and The Way showed up at one point, as well as a 1st day Section hiker.
Newbie dropped his atomic bomb just outside the shelter, leaving a gigantic crater in the ground. He began to unload his supply of 4 nalgene water bottles, axe, multiple compasses and multiple multi-tools. He also carried with him 2 stoves, one for the shits and one for the giggles. One of them, interestingly enough was able to burn 3 types of fuel: solid, alcohol, and wood.
The alcohol function stove is designed for primarily just that, alcohol. And nothing else should be used because it’s REALLY dangerous to put anything more flammable or explosive in one of those puppies due to the possibility of the thing exploding (not to mention, it’s horribly fuel efficient for white gas). Well our new friend was creating flames from his stove almost a meter tall, enough to cause concern for doing it next to the shelter and also charring the fuck out of the picnic table.
” I just can’t seem to get this damn thing to boil my water! It burns up so fast!” he shouts.
I peek over his shoulder, seeing orange flames lick the sides and handles of his pot.
“Give me your fuel bottle” I ask abruptly.
He hands it to me. I walk 5 meters away before opening it, just in case it was what I was expecting it to be. Well it was. A giant gagging wave of white gas hit my nostrils, ripping my throat and nostrils wide open.
“Bro, this is white gas, you definitely can’t use this in an alcohol stove. You’re going to catch this place on fire if you are not careful. Look, just borrow my fuel if you need to.”
“No that’s okay, I think it’ll be okay, I just need to do it a few more times” he says, as the table is smoking underneath his stove. He opens the fuel bottle to pour more back in the stove.
“No, you’re going to get that shit off the table and put it on the ground so that you don’t hurt anyone or damage the campsite.” I retort back harshly.
He stares at me for a second, dumb founded. Some of the other hikers there nod their heads in approval, so he picks up his equipment and moves over to the wet ground. In his wake, the smoldering table remains, depressingly whipping small plums of smoke into the wet air.