Packing Out a Growler and Other Pour Decisions
I was at McAfee’s again. The sky erupted in a fiery orange and purple. I was finally back in the place I started backpacking — 700 miles later. I had just come back from spending a zero with my close friends in Blacksburg, and was rejuvenated after being somewhere that felt like home with friends that felt like family. It felt incredible to literally walk home and be embraced by them all. I am always so grateful for my friends!
I had cowboy camped at McAfees the night after. I pushed forwards from another couple of friends, and at the edge of the cliff I saw another thru-hiker, dangling his feet off. Long hair, glasses, multiple friendship bracelets, a woven necklace with a rock on it, and with the hippie dippy name of Lovechild — I could tell we would be friends. The sun set and we froze our asses off cowboy camping, but when I rolled over the next morning and saw blazing pink clouds, I knew I’d made the right choice.
The edge of the cliff was quiet during sunrise — the only sound was the wind and the pensive melody of a steel drum. It seemed surreal. Peaceful. The thru-hiker steel drummer sat at the edge, fingers tapping the singing metal as the sky bled into shades of purple and gold. Every beat of the drum reminded me how lucky I was to be alive and experiencing this exact moment, from the time I stepped onto the trail in Georgia and every step in between.
A few days later, I was strolling down the trail when suddenly I felt one thigh rubbing against fabric on the other leg. I was perturbed. Usually, my thighs stay in my shorts — they’re knee length biker shorts. That day, they burst through the seams on my inner thighs like forbidden lovers. And just like forbidden lovers, they absolutely destroyed each other. And so that’s how I found myself, my bare ass sitting on a lichen covered rock on the side of a trail, wrapping the inflamed girth of my thigh with waterproof tape in the middle of a rainstorm. Three ridges were coming up — three extremely vertically challenging ridges — and to make things better, a thunderstorm was going to keep me company. I approached three ridges like a cowboy strutting up to a shootout. My legs kicked to the sides, doing a strange waddle — I approached my challenger. With a mighty battle cry of “LET’S F***ING RAVE!!!!” and a mix of EDM music that tricked my brain into thinking it was at a party instead of launching my body at a mountain, I began my climb.
With every thunder crack, I moved faster, bursting past eerie deer that looked at me like I was about to eat their fawns. I moved in and out of the mist, catching glimpses of the ground outside the tree line, houses and farms growing smaller. I regretted any moment in days prior that I complained about how dull the trail could be sometimes. Days upon days of staring at rocks and roots and still managing to trip can get to a person. With every lightning bolt that made me jump, I tapped the trail reassuringly, whispering, you are so exciting! You are the most interesting and fun trail I ever have experienced! Please don’t kill me with a freak strike of lightning!
After some hours of violent fist pumping interspersed with worried looks at the sky — I careened down the other side, NOT struck by lightning, and with a new appreciation for the seemingly endless dull sunny days I had been having.
A few hours later, I found myself sitting at a brewery, debating with lovechild about the cost efficiency vs practicality of packing out a growler from Devil’s Backbone. We walked into the brewery like two mud-bedraggled heathens — myself still sporting my wide legged waddle as I struggled to keep my thighs apart. Several people, clean and not weathered, stared at my legs, barely covered by the tattered shorts and slap-dash tape job. We sat outside and within a few minutes, realized our most cost-effective option for the most alcohol consumption was a growler. However, in tiny saddening print next to that option, it kindly let us know we had to consume the growler at home — which was hard to do when you don’t currently own a house. We called the waitress over and asked for the growler. She gave us a funny look. “You can’t drink that here you know.” “We know!” I said and grinned.
So there I was, on the outside deck of devils backbone, shoving a growler into the top of my ULA circuit. We hitched back to trail and stumbled onwards for the next six miles as it began to pour. Rain drenched us as we passed the monstrous glass bottle back and forth, laughing and slipping on rocks. With every frog and salamander we passed, I drunkenly squatted down and helped them pass the trail. After we finished it, I clipped the growler to a strap of his Osprey, where it clinked around like an old military canteen. A hiker passed by us and chuckled: “You too are sure embracing the suck!” And we laughed — we were sure embracing the IPA.
Emergency Beer Poops
And the next morning I was embracing the toilet seat. We set up our tent and hammock in the rain at a campsite just off trail. It was still pouring. Our super fun buzzed rain walk had turned into a miserable trudge for the last two miles and the only thing getting me through was yelling to the Beatles white album. My single wall tent formed a slight puddle in the corner of it that night from condensation.
In the morning I said my daily rainy day affirmations: I LOVE WET CLOTHES I LOVE WET CLOTHES I LOVE WET CLOTHES. THE WAY THEY FEEL ON MY SKIN IS MAGNIFICENT. I AM NOT COLD WET AND MISERABLE. And then I realized I was about to poop my pants inside my tent if I didn’t get to a bathroom ASAP. I lunged out of the tent flap and started hobbling towards the bathrooms. It was still raining and my Achilles were too stiff to move quickly. I started hobbling faster. My situation was getting dire. The poop was coming whether I wanted it to or not. I tried to focus on the rain on the pavement and not the poop straining to get out of my butt. I finally made it to the bathroom door. I clutched the steel handle and yanked it open — only to see the path to the stall was blocked by a free-standing tent. I stood in the doorway, an ominous silhouette in the rain, full of poop and thought about my options. I could compromise my morals entirely and let loose an entire beer poop in the bathroom with them in it and entirely foul up the place, ruining their morning and our potential friendship — or I could risk pooping myself and continue to hobble around to the men’s bathroom. I decided to not ruin their morning and risk pooping myself. I clenched my butt and ran over to the men’s bathroom and found sweet relief — and also saved some hiker’s mornings. On to the next poor decisions and hectic beer poops!
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