Wednesday, June 2, 2010

City Girl Goes Country...Temporarily

Who am I kidding, I'm no city girl. I'm stuck somewhere between city girl and country girl, in the netherlands of non-classification (hee hee, netherlands...). But anyway, I went backpacking for the first time this weekend.

When I told people I was going to do this I got raised eyebrows and chuckles. But seeing as my life is wide open, it seems like an ideal time to try anything and everything. And, frankly, I've always been curious, and I like hiking, and I've been camping once, so I said what the hell, let's do this thing! And so, my sister and her husband helped me load up my ridiculously puny pink backpack, donned their own giant, 80-pound hardcore backpacks, grabbed Milo the retarded dog, and we all headed down into Shenandoah national park for three days of pain.

Here's what I learned on my first backpacking trip:

1. Your knitting project is not a necessity and therefore does not get to come.

2. Ticks and zombies are essentially the same thing, but ticks are much much smaller and harder to find. You'll have to check various...crevices and pull them out with your fingernails. To do this, you will have to get multiple, multiple ticks under your fingernails. The first time you will be all "ew ew ew ew ew!", but then you will get used to it, which is disturbing. When you're in your tent ticks will climb the walls trying to get to your delicious blood, and if you listen hard enough you can hear their little teeny voices groaning "braaaiins."

3. Even though Clif bars come in a variety of flavors, such as Carrot Cake, Cherry Almond, and Oatmeal Raisin, they all taste basically the same. And you will eat a lot of them whilst backpacking.

4. Bears are an ever-present danger when you're backpacking. You will live in fear of them for the duration of the hike. Any smell will attract them, including toothpaste, boxed wine, hand sanitizer, and, of course, those delicious Clif bars. When you are sleeping you must put all of these items in a big bag and hang them in a tree far away. Like, really high up. This process involves lots of rope and pulley systems. Also, when you hike, you will constantly be looking for bear poop and making as much noise as possible. In short, bears are terrifying.

5. Brushing your teeth in the wild is a disgusting process, but less disgusting than not brushing your teeth, so it must be done. First you must go far away from your campsite because of the bears. The actual brushing is fine, but the cleaning of the toothbrush involves spitting water onto your toothbrush, and the foam gets all over your hands and you can't wipe them on your pants (again, because of the bears), and it's just bad.

6. Millipedes are in actuality not slimy, but sort of hard and exo-skeleton-y. Please don't ask how I learned this, you don't want to know the answer.

7. Being on the top of a mountain in a thunderstorm is, simply put, THE WORST PLACE YOU COULD POSSIBLY BE IN THE WORLD. Worse than China. Worse than the DMV. Especially when you're holding metal hiking poles. You will think it's no big deal, that the chances of getting hit by lightning are very small, but the experienced hikers will literally run down the mountain and you will have to follow. You will not get to see the views that you hiked uphill for 5 hours to see.

8. There are plants that sting if you touch them. Entire campsites can be surrounded by them.

9. Pooping in the woods is the most disgusting thing that you will ever have to do. Whilst doing so, you will worry incessantly about stinging plants and ticks in crevices and millipedes. Then, to "leave no trace", you'll have to do stuff to it. No more will be said about this process.

10. That first shower, bed with sheets, and hot, non-Clif-bar-based meal is the most glorious thing you will ever experience.

11. After one backpacking trip you will be convinced that you are ready to hike the entire Appalachian Trail and you will start making abstract plans to do so the next summer. You are not. But it's good to have unreachable goals.

So, you may ask after reading these 11 key points about hiking, why do it? You couldn't possibly have had fun, could you? Well, the answer is that I did actually have fun. The hiking itself was fabulous exercise, and I saw lots of beautiful scenery. There's really nothing like walking through a fern field on the top of a mountain, even with a retarded dog strapped to your hip. Even if you don't get to stay on top of the mountain because of a storm.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. The satisfaction of feeling your legs carry you through 13 miles of wilderness is worth the various pitfalls. The stunning views of the Shenandoah mountains fading into the distance is worth the sweat and the bear danger. The new and unusual lifestyle that must be adopted stretches your mind and your life experience and gives you a new appreciation for all the conveniences that modern life offers.

Especially if your brother-in-law carries the boxed wine.

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