Encounters With Normal People in the Woods
I was three days out of Damascus, Virginia. The Trail Days bubble was progressing North and Southern Virginia was awash with thru-hikers. After three days of clear skies and warm temperatures the weather had turned leaving us wet and cold. I slogged North from the Grayson Highlands State Park until I reached the trail to Hurricane Creek Campground. I had no plans to stop here except for a paper note that read: Trail angel at campground. My brain immediately went alight with the possibilities. What could be waiting for me? Pizza? Hamburgers? Hotdogs? BEER!? I knew immediately what I had to do. I set off down the blue blaze.
I emerged from the woods wet, cold, with an appearance only rivaled by Robin Williams in Jumanji. I spied only one group of campers, a family on a weekend get away with their Coleman ten-person monstrosity and enough stuff to send a lightweight backpacker into shock. They began eyeing me and speaking in whispers, seemingly trying to determine how a vagrant had made it this far into the woods. I ambled towards them. I had to find the trail angel. They became nervous as I approached them. The Dad came forward and with a shaky voice asked, “Can we help you, sir?”
“The angel,” I spoke excitedly, “I’m looking for the trail angel! Have you seen the trail angel!?”
The Dad backed up with his hand out in front of him, “Listen, buddy, we don’t know anything about any angels. We don’t want no trouble.”
In defeat, with no trail angel in sight, I left Hurricane Creek Campground.
Normal People are Strange
It is common knowledge that hikers can be a strange, weird bunch but when normal people take to the woods it can get even stranger. Who are these foreigners visiting our kingdom in the woods? Why are they taking pictures of me? They almost smell pleasant. What are these creatures? Their outdoors gear can get even weirder. Is that a tent or a condo? You mean to tell me they carry all their food in a large box with ice in it? I wonder what that Sedan’s base weight is. Indeed, these strange creatures from the city carry with them many wonders.
These encounters can lead to strange situations such as the story above or a Chinese family, wearing a strange brand of jacket called The Northern Face, putting on your pack for the sake of a photo. It could also lead to a myriad of free food…
Learning to Benefit From These Encounters
It would behoove you to learn their culture. Should you learn how to approach, talk to, and blend in with the normal people visiting the woods, you too could reap the rewards. This is called the Art of Yoging. Do those strange folks with the SUV, cooler, and rack of ribs have an extra beer for you? There is only one way to find out. It’s time to Yogi. As you approach them and begin to learn their ways they will be profoundly interested in your stories. They will ask many questions. How far have you walked? Where did you start? Do you carry a gun? Are you diagnosed with any mental diseases or defects?
The more questions you answer, the greater your reward. What started out as a quick conversation with normal people could quickly lead to a supply of beer, a hamburger dinner, and those all-powerful words, “Would you like a ride to town?”
And you can’t beat beer, burgers, and a ride to town.
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