Friday, September 28, 2012

Clash Between Backpacker and Privy


For a change of pace, I'm posting some stories of what could happen while out on the Appalachian Trail. Although these are fiction, some may hold a kernel of truth.


After packing up my backpack prior to leaving the AT shelter where I’d spent the night, I decided to hit the privy one last time. For some strange reason, this one had an outside latch that could be locked: I suppose it was to keep unwelcome critters out since the sign hanging on the door did say to make sure you locked it after using it.
Unfortunately, the lock decided to engage while I was still in the john. No amount of rattling or banging on the door would budge it, and of course my curses and entreaties went completely ignored. Had someone been with me, the ruckus I raised would have brought them on the run. Well, maybe not on the run, since it pays to show caution whenever approaching an unknown situation while out in the wilderness. No telling what could be making me carry on like that; it could even be a bear. But eventually I would have been extricated from my wooden prison.

But I was hiking solo, so I had to figure this out myself. Finally, I hoisted myself up on the door. I don’t know what I had it in my mind to do, but apparently my added weight managed to jiggle the lock back open. As the door swung wide with me hanging spread-eagled from it, I saw that I was not alone after all.

Standing a few feet away with their mouths hanging open in surprise was a Boy Scout troop. I managed to drop to the ground. I didn’t see any point in trying to explain what I was doing hanging from the privy door, so I didn’t even try.

I just shouldered my pack and beat a retreat up the trail with as much dignity as I could muster, which wasn’t much. Behind me I heard the scoutmaster say, somewhat dubiously, “Have a nice day.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Good to the Last Drop(ping)

The 2000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail provide numerous opportunities for involvement with nature in all her moods and settings. Some of those can be downright dangerous for the hiker, such as blizzards, thunderstorms, rockslides and rabid animals, to name just a few.

Most people feel the beauty and tranquility of this great trail more than compensate for Mother Nature’s less obliging scenarios, however. And sometimes, dear old nature can have quite a sense of humor.

Take the story of Eddie P., a long-distance hiker from the Big Apple who decided to take about three weeks off work to hike the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes completely through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Walking north to south, which is counter to the direction most of the through-hikers do, Eddie was whistling a jaunty walking song as he approached the cutoff to the Shuckstack Trail, about four miles from Fontana Dam and the end of his great adventure. It was all downhill from here and he was feeling really full of himself, so he picked up a handy rock and exuberantly threw it at some tree branches nearby. Did I happen to mention that Eddie was something of a kid at heart, despite being thirty-something?

Unfortunately, that rock startled a crow that had just settled down to enjoy a well-earned meal. Said meal took advantage of its captor’s divided attention to scuttle away out of reach. Once the bird settled back on its branch to find its tasty morsel gone, anger filled its little birdie brain as it hurtled down on the human who was the cause of its increasingly-empty stomach.

Now it was Eddie’s turn to be startled as the hateful crow dive-bombed him through the trees. He waved his arms frantically to keep the creature out of his face, but it just kept coming. Finally he picked up another rock, throwing it as hard and as accurately as he could. As some black feathers floated down to the ground, he yelled up at the now-clear sky, “Ha, ha, you dumb bird! I had the last laugh after all, didn’t I?”

Eddie stepped out briskly once more and finished the last lap of his epic journey –  epic in his mind, at least. He had timed his arrival back at his car to coincide with Happy Hour, had there been any bars in the area to be having one. But the man had planned ahead. He had a single-serving bottle of champagne stashed in the trunk. Even though it wasn’t exactly chilled to the proper temperature, he figured, since it had been cloudy and cool today, it shouldn’t taste too bad, and that was the proper way to celebrate the successful conclusion of his foot journey.

Finding a comfortable place to sit and admire the scenery, he carefully poured the contents of his miniature bottle into his trail cup and sniffed the bouquet appreciatively. A shadow passed over him from above. As he looked up, he could almost hear the crow say, “Bomb’s away,” as it let fly.


Only a vengeful crow could have directed that “bomb” with such pinpoint accuracy.

“S***t!” Eddie said with feeling as he disgustedly threw away the now-ruined drink. Did he detect the sound of laughter as the black creature flew back up the mountain?