Hiking with Daniel (June 23-25)

Hiking with Daniel this weekend is one of my favorite trail experiences so far.  All day Friday I hike through wet of some kind, be it mist, rain or heavy downpour.  We are in the heavy downpour stage when I meet Daniel in a parking lot.  The rain is of absolutely no concern to him, except that it adds to the adventure.  He even bought Frog Toggs rain gear on the way here, just for the occasion.  This is the tone of the entire weekend.  I say, “I’m not sure what we’ll do.  The shelter’s full and all the nearby camp sites are taken…I guess we’ll have to hike until we find something…” my voice trails off in reluctance.  I’m thinking, oh brother, rain makes everything so much harder.  Daniel says, “No problem!  Just some rain, we can use my tarp at camp.  We’ll hike until dark!”  He’s come from a week of cubicle work, and he’s pumped and ready to go.  He hoists up the baggy Frog Toggs, tucking in the pants, granny panty style, and I’m dying laughing.  He says, “Hey, do you have an extra plastic bag for my sleeping bag?”  I don’t, but he remains totally unconcerned that his warmth tonight will be compromised by a wet bag.  We just laugh at the situation for a while until he remembers he has one.  This is the tone for the entire weekend.  My family has always described Daniel as laid back, but I really notice it over the course of the weekend.  I pretty much just laugh my way through the time, often at the way Daniel handles life.  It is so much fun to have such an enjoyable, relaxed hiking partner with me for a couple days.

So anyway, we head out into the driving rain.  I know if I was hiking alone I would be trying to make the best of the situation, but I wouldn’t be enjoying myself!  Daniel says, “Wow, it’s so nice to be out here.  No rules, no time commitments.  It’s so nice to be hiking!”  Rain driving down, shoes soaked, the trail a muddy puddle.  But with a different attitude, fresh forest smells, cool feel of rain on skin, adventure/comedy of being out in it.  We hike until we find a site.  We work on stringing up the tarp between a couple trees, feeling proud of the roof we make.  All four corners strung out plus a supporting line.  If a problem arises we just look at each other and laugh a minute until we think of a solution.  We tie a rock to an edge to prevent water pooling.  Daniel digs a trench with his shoe for dripping water to gutter away.  This is all done in a gleeful way.  We’re basically out in the woods, creating a fort.  Afterward we sit underneath enjoying our dry patch and watching the rain.  Daniel goes to town on his packed food.

As we’re falling asleep Daniel says, “Wow, you know something?  Thru hiking must be a mix of being captain of your own ship and having a positive attitude…you do what you can, but you also accept things that are outside your control”.  I think that’s a pretty good way to put it, a main theme of a thru hike.

The relaxed attitude influences me and I let us sleep in the next morning.  Eventually I get up and start encouraging Daniel- ha.  I pull his sleeping bag off and he rolls over and mutters, “Aaaah…….gotta……eat……”  I laugh and laugh about that.  Eating, the one thing that will get him moving again.

We hike 10 miles Saturday with many breaks along the way.  At lunch Daniel’s still feeling good, and we tell other hikers we’re shooting for a 20 mile day.  Then we get moving again.  I’ve come to find that’s when it usually hits, right at mile 11.  All the sudden Daniel starts to feel blisters on his feet and the exhaustion of having hiked all day.  He notes this with cheerful commentary:  “Starting to lose the spring in my step” and “My pace is really starting to degrade!”  All said with a chuckle.  After a while we modify our plans, after I realize part of his motivation is wanting to beat out Becka: “I can’t believe your friend did 18, that bugger!  I’m going for a high score, most miles hiked with Katie!”  In the end, we camp at 17 miles, nothing to scoff at, especially for someone who hasn’t backpacked for months.
Before we get to camp,we take a brief rest break at Daniel’s insistence.  Really, I’m ready for a break too, but I like to tease him and penetrate that ever constant calm attitude sometimes.  I say, “You don’t need a break, do you?”  At this point he’s stumbling along, the sole on one of his shoes half falling off so it drags behind and half trips him every third step.  He says, “Katie, just let me take a 20 minute nap and you will not regret it!”  I find this promise hilarious.  I say, “What about the bugs, it’s so buggy here?!”  He says acceptingly, “They can just bite me” and I know he must be really tired.  Then he thinks and says, “I’ll wear my frog toggs!  That’ll get ’em!”  So he proceeds to don the full suit (“I love my frog toggs!  Wait until I tell Dad about these!”) and lay down right on the earth, no mat or anything.  He’s out cold.  We’re right near to the path to a shelter, so multiple hikers pass by in the next 20 minutes and say things like, “That guy’s dead” and “Something happened to him!”  It’s amusing to watch.  At 20 minutes, Daniel sits up again, ready to go.  Frankly, I’m amazed.  A 20 minute nap wouldn’t cut it for me, and I was just gearing up to have to rouse him back to life.

So we camp that night and turn in early because Daniel’s practically a zombie.  The next morning we hike in to town, a mere 8 miles.  We call home (family to meet us in town), and Daniel tells Mom of his condition with the blisters.   Mom expresses much empathy.  Later we take a break and he says, “Maybe tonight when I get home I can dig the wheelchair out of the barn, and Mom can wheel me around in it.”  So whupped he’s looking forward to some time as an invalid.

All in all though,  I think our trip is a great success.  When we meet family a few hours later, Daniel has many stories or comments about the weekend for Grandma and Pop.  He gets some more empathetic attention from them, and I think in spite of too many miles, he’s still happy with the trip.

After a night at home, Daniel is almost good as new.  Really, better than before, because who can spend time out in nature, and with family, without being a bit better for it?

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