hiking the Appalachian Trail (part 2 of 2)
(first appeared at valterramagazines.com on 2/1/2014)
It was only eight hours later that we arrived at our camp for the evening. The hours literally flew by, in a way that I imagine only the hikers involved in the Bataan Death March could relate to. The only break I got from the searing pain of each foot hitting the ground was the occasional leg cramp.
I had eaten my three-days’ worth of provisions before noon so I was at the mercy of friends and their ridiculous freeze-dried dinners. The fact that they were all openly wishing I would hurry up and die of pus-loss and despair made my leverage in negotiating what I could borrow from their ample packs limited at best. What I ended up with was a pouch of “Southwest Chili.” On the cover of the packet was a smiling chili pepper. Given my feeble intestinal fortitude I would typically avoid such spicy fare but such was the depths of my hunger that I happily snatched it up and threw it on the campfire. Moments later, the hot water barely soaked into the pepper-ridden powder, I wolfed it all down.
As the sun set all the creatures of the forest were treated to the noises coming from my stomach. I could clearly make out the sounds of gringos galloping down my small intestine, all the while whooping and firing their pistols into the air. My face was a red mask of sweat as I inquired where the bathrooms were. It was then I was introduced to the concept of a composting toilet. Compost, from the Greek “can be smelled for miles.” I was pointed down a narrow trail and told that at the end of this was what I sought.
As I walked further from camp I began to get a whiff that I was headed in the right direction. There were no animals here. No insects chirped. The only noise I could hear was the buzzing of flies.
When I finally arrived I seriously considered taking off one of what remained of my $6 hiking boot ($12/2) and beating myself to death with it as opposed to sitting on the filth-encrusted hole that sat before me. That’s when the “Southwest Chili” made the decision for me.
I shat with a force that had me looking between my legs to see if any of my spine had been cast out with the “Southwest Chili.”
Even the flies left.
I realized I had no toilet paper.
I began to weep.
Eventually I made my way back to camp and found a spot to lay out my sleeping bag. Above my head there were at least a dozen spiders the size of my fist, sitting in their web and watching me with undisguised avarice.
I didn’t care.
In the distance I heard my friends talking and laughing with a few other hikers who had made their way to the structure. They were giving each other trail names. I sat in the dark and decided I’d like to be called Strider. I was about to make my way over to the fire when I heard them give me the moniker Shit For Brains.
I stayed where I was.
A few hours later I heard them make their way inside the wooden structure and soon after I could hear them all snoring. My feet hurt too much to sleep so I decided to rid myself of what little moisture I still had in me by weeping again. Occasionally I would slip into a fevered hallucination where the smiling chili pepper would laugh and poke me with a fiery pitchfork.
The next morning my friends set off without me.
**The journal ends here. The identity and fate of the author remains a mystery and part of Appalachian Trail folklore.**