Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Take a Hike

I've only been on one overnight hiking trip. It was December in New Mexico and there were eight inches of snow on the ground. These were not mild conditions, but I was going with my classmate, Dan, who was an experienced outdoorsman, and he assured me this was no big deal.

The plan was to set out in the early morning and climb the nearby mountain, arriving at the summit in plenty of time to pitch camp, cook a good meal, and drink a little booze before retiring for a night of well earned sleep.

Things didn't go as planned.

For one reason and another we got a late start setting out around midday. Then, what was a moderate uphill hike for Dan proved to be a desperate, brutal slog for me and my out of shape, lowlander lungs. By late afternoon we still had not reached the top and the sun was setting. Dan went ahead to set up camp. I slogged on.

When I finally reached the top it was almost completely dark, and Dan was standing over the collapsed tent cursing. We had borrowed it and, unfortunately, just now discovered that it was missing several pegs. The various clever solutions we tried all failed, and finally we just gave up.

Next was food. Dan made an effort to light the camp stove, but the temperature was dropping rapidly and even our heavy-duty winter gear was no longer adequate. After some numb-fingered fumbling, we abandoned this too and resigned ourselves to the only option left. We pulled off our boots, got into the collapsed tent, got into our sleeping bags, and ate ice cold bean burritos.

We farted all night.

Inside the tent was noxious and suffocating. Outside was lethally cold. Our comfort and well being depended on a delicate balance, keeping our faces close enough to the tent opening to get breathable air but not so close as to get a frostbitten nose. Neither of us slept very much, and the night lasted a very long time. The stars were remarkably beautiful, though.

In the morning we laced up our boots, packed our gear, and headed downhill as fast as we reasonably could, arriving back at school in time for a hot lunch and a nap. As a final insult, all of the skin peeled off of Dan's feet over the next few days. The brief time it had taken him to put on his boots had been sufficient exposure to get low-grade frostbite.

I have never gone camping since. If I ever do, there won't be any snow, and there won't be any bean burritos. And I'm counting my pegs before I leave.


  1. Anonymous9:19 PM

    This is a funny thing happened in New Mexico story. I am still waiting for my choice of "A funny thing happened on the way to New Mexico" story from the "This blog is your blog" selections!!

  2. Your day will come. And curiously enough, that story also involves the dilemna of a foul stench indoors and extreme temperatures outdoors.