Lions and Tigers and Bears… Oh My!
What Is This Shit All About?
My sweet nine-year-old came home and told me that her new friend at school, whose name is Internet, said that “it isn’t possible to walk 2200 miles.”
I responded by telling my nine-year-old that “it isn’t possible to be a girl named Internet.”
My nine-year-old came back the next day and said, “My friend said her name is Antoinette and you still can’t walk 2200 miles.”
Touché dear child. Touché.
You are probably reading this thinking what the shit is this all about. Frankly, I am right there with you. Honestly, I just got here myself.
Every time I sit down to write, I have no idea what the fuck is going to spill out. I am always filled with self-doubt.
Sometimes I write an entire post then I wake up the next morning and just delete everything!
My husband is like, what are you doing. My answer is, “Hemmingway supposedly said you are supposed to write drunk and edit sober, but I think if I am going to get anywhere, I just need to write and edit drunk.” I look at him and say, “Well, I don’t think Hemmingway really said that, but people say he did.”
His head cocked to the side, like a puppy trying to figure out what his owner is saying. Then my sweet husband just shrugs his shoulders because really, what can you say to that.
I suppose you are supposed to present yourself to the public as a fake, shiny, happy person all of the time. Make sure that I’m not letting you know that I wear pajamas at the grocery store, but really who wants to see that level of fraud? Not me.
So, what you may get from me is just to know that you’re not alone in your imperfections. All of my failures make me… well me.
So, if you want to pretend you are perfect and never ate that French fry that fell on the floor then good for you. You probably aren’t going to relate to anything I have to say. Because depending on how hungry I am, that French fry is not safe.
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never become a sexy vampire, who will be infallibly young forever. But we don’t get to pick who we are.
So here I am, a writer, so I write. I don’t always write well but I am still compelled to write.
I’m not even sure why I feel compelled to write, in all honesty, I have managed to fuck shit up in so many impressive ways I don’t know why anyone might want to read what comes out of my head… well maybe I am so publicly terrible at life, it can make others feel better about themself, so there’s that. You’re welcome.
The really strange thing is this is how I begin every blog. Then I just keep going until something sticks. At that point, I delete the rest of the shit that didn’t make sense and continue on from there. This is the wordsmithery that eventually becomes the blog.
Today I am going to rebel and leave it all here. Maybe it will give you a chuckle.
So on to today’s blog post… the stuff that stuck…
The Stuff That Stuck
Ok, I broke the news to everyone. Yea, there’s a lot of people who think I am a little mad, but they probably thought that even before I announced my plan.
“Do you remember that time you “tried” to work out at the gym?” My daughter asked.
“Yes, I remember it, mainly because I literally almost died… but that was different. I hate the gym, but I love hiking.” I retorted. This causes my daughter to go into a fit of giggles to the point tears are streaming from her eyes and she is struggling to catch her breath.
Well, I suppose my experience at the gym with a trainer was funny, but it really has nothing to do with the epic journey that I am about to experience. I will share my gym story next time, I promise.
Did I mention that I am a registered nurse?
Nurses walk thousands of steps every single day. We lift hundreds of pounds, repeatedly over the course of the day. All while we bend, stoop, squat, and get into so many contorted positions that I cannot even begin to explain. Then there are the 12-hour shifts, often without water, food, or even bathroom breaks.
Nurses push, pull, lift, and carry heavy equipment. We run, we run to the pharmacy, the blood bank, and to code blues. This is all done under the greatest of mental duress. Ok I am beginning to sound like a job description, so I’ll stop there… just know this, the job of a nurse is not for the faint of heart or the weak of mind.
The physical demands I have placed on my body during my 25-year career make a 2,190-mile hike look like a fuji vacation. So, I retort to my naysayers…what’s the worst that could happen?
“Well, there are no bears in the ER for starters,” my sweet friend firmly stated.
Oh, yes… a bear could maul me. According to some of my overly concerned family, I could actually get eaten by a bear!
Honestly, I have never been overly conscientious about encountering wildlife while on the trails. I have seen moose, black bears, bobcats, feral dogs, snakes, grizzly bears, lynx, badgers the whole gamut. The scariest event I saw play out in the backcountry was a large cougar eating its kill in the mountains of Washington state. It looked like a female lion and that was terrifying.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attacks by domesticated animals, like my cat, are far more common than attacks by wild creatures. Speaking of cats, my cat bit me last week and I had to take antibiotics for an entire week, so I didn’t lose my finger. Who knew I had to worry about my domesticated pets more than those in the wild!
In fact, the odds that a bear will eat me while I’m out hiking are one in a million. Literally!
Still, it’s probably best to refrain from feeding Doritos to the cute bear cub you happen to run into on the trail. I’ve seen the videos in Yosemite of bears eating an entire car to get to the bag of chips in the trunk. I’m not interested in seeing that in person.
For most people, the great counterweight to the lure of the outdoors is the fear of the unknown. For me, that’s what gets my blood pumping.
Yes, I think about things like What if it snows at high elevation? What if I fall off a cliff and break my tibia? What if I get bitten by a snake? These are nothing more than fleeting thoughts.
People spend way too much time and energy worrying about scary, but low percentage threats, like bears, cougars, and poisonous snakes, and not enough time concerning themselves with dull but common dangers like faulty gear, blisters, and hypothermia.
I once had to hike twelve miles of rocky, uneven trails along treacherous steep cliffs in the dark because I miscalculated our time and had forgotten my headlamp. That was a dangerous situation. My best friend still doesn’t forgive me for that one!
Beware the dark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb
Does anyone think owls are scary? Well, let me tell you this about those cute little buggers. I was once attacked by an owl. There I was, around 8, and I was playing in the woods by my house. In my tiny hands, I clutched a little stuffed animal. It fell to the ground, I bent over to pick it up, and down swoops an owl. It missed the stuffed animal, its talons catching in my hair. At this point the owl was freaking out, I was freaking out, and my cousin had runoff in fear. In the end, it finally got itself free. We both left unharmed except for a few scratches. The question is, how do you prepare for something like that?
Then there was the time in our backyard that my brother was bitten by a fruit bat. Not the kind that turns you into Edward Cullen. The now-obsolete series of 17 painful rabies injections into the stomach muscles that once constituted the standard ‘when you get bitten by a bat’ regimen in the 1980s. Today the vaccine administration is much less severe.
Then there was the school trip to the petting zoo when the emu tried to make me his bitch. We were in an enclosure when I noticed the emu’s neck turned turquoise. Little known fact, their necks turn this color when sexually aroused. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. So, it wrapped its long, strong-ass neck around my body and started, well, humping me. It kept yelling and hissing at anyone who came near. This lasted for several minutes which felt like hours until the keeper and my teacher were able to get it off of me.
Oh, and church camp. I was up late one night reading a scary book, probably the bible, when I suddenly realized, that I had to pee really badly. I don’t wanna wake someone up to go with me, so I took a deep breath and ran to the bathroom. When I got there, I heard a noise coming from one of the stalls. I’m like, ‘Phew, someone else is in here.’ So, I call out to them, but no one responds. The noises stop, and everything was piercingly quiet.
I walked towards the stall where I heard the noises, and shouted out, ‘Hello? Is someone there?’
I got to the stall, peeked around the half-open door, and there was this HUGE MOTHERFUCKING BUCK standing there, its face inches from mine. I screamed absolute bloody murder and the thing just flips the shit out. It started going nuts, bucking, kicking, spinning around, panicking, and crashing into the walls. Have you ever seen a terrified deer cornered? It’s no joke, they are fighting for their lives.
It lunged towards me, and I threw myself backward, colliding full throttle with the sinks. I fell to the ground as the buck tore out of the stall. By instinct, I was able to roll out of the way just in time to not be trampled.
I’m sitting under the sink absolutely horror-struck when a gang of counselors came bursting through the doors to find me sitting in my own pee, crying, and trembling with huge lumps forming on my back and head.
I have several more of these wild animal adventures I could share, including one about an elephant who threw rocks at us, but I think you get the point. This is, you cannot plan for everything, things happen unexpectedly. And you don’t even have to leave your yard for a scary wildlife encounter to happen.
I think the main reason people worry about the wrong things is partially the fault of outdoor magazines. Adding the words “When Grizzlies Attack!” to the cover sells more newsstand copies, even if the average reader’s chance of having a stand-off with a bear is about the same as finding buried treasure while digging a hole in their backyard.
Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. -Mark Twain
“But… You could fall off a cliff or waterfall.” Says another concerned friend.
“Well, I could but contrary to what people believe, I am not a stupid person who does stupid things.”
Hiking falls are almost always attributed to poor judgment or improper footwear. So, I will definitely ditch my four-year-old flip-flops in favor of some good hiking sandals, like Bedrocks or my super grippy trail-running shoes, both of which offer much better support and tread for precarious terrain.
Trust me I have no plans to channel my inner Cliffhanger Sylvester Stallone. And I will not be putting myself in any situations that require me severing my own arm with a pocketknife. I am past those days. And simply put, I am smart enough to know the degree of stupid I really am. And my threshold for stupidity is fairly low.
For anyone who doubts me, stupidity is defined as “behaviors that show a lack of good sense or judgment” and “the state of being silly or unwise.”
So, even though sometimes I do things I was warned not to do, despite having the information at my disposal, I continue on, and I do it anyway. I will argue that I don’t think my actions were ever stupid because I am always cautious even if I don’t always follow all the rules.
But luckily, you’re not here to judge and I’m just here to explain why people may get the wrong impression of me.
You might think that looking stupid in public is reserved for the, well, stupid people. The truth is that we’ve all fallen on our faces, so to speak, in one form or another in our lives, and it’s likely that these public acts of stupidity will occur again. After all, we are only human.
Look up the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, it states that dumb people are blissfully unaware of how dumb they really are. Or in other words, if you’re too stupid, you’re too stupid to figure out how stupid you are. This is not me.
Screenshots Don’t Scare Me, I Know What The Fuck I Said
Ok back to the trail.
Honestly, I am more concerned about water sources than anything else.
My daughter and I were driving down the highway once and a rockslide crushed the car in front of ours. We sat on the road for hours. I thought I was going to die of thirst as I sat between the rock pile and miles and miles of backed-up vehicles. I was about to start knocking on windows in search of a drink and wasn’t playing around.
Oh, and can I tell you I have seen many wilderness rescues and have come to the conclusion that the absolute biggest threat in the wilderness is definitely, hands down, human stupidity. I think we can all admit that we are always amazed at how many people do downright dumb things. I mean MTV runs Ridiculousness literally non-stop.
Man might be at the top of the food chain and has achieved some pretty amazing things like inventing the internet (Thanks Al Gore). But remember, in the wilderness, we are nothing more than another animal. Society abides by the rules of nature because humanity alone isn’t going to save us from being killed!
And no one at all has mentioned the absolute scariest thing about this expedition! The cost! Now that’s something that could keep you up at night.
Rest assured family and friends, I’ve got this!
The Appalachian Trail isn’t a walk in the park, but I can do it. I will wait until next year to tackle the Mt Fitz Roy trek in Patagonia, maybe the year after to go full-on Bear Grylls with a solo mission to Antarctica.
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Honest. Frank. Funny. Exuberant.
Can’t wait to follow your adventures on trail.
What section are you hiking first?