When the pressures of the real world start to add up, and the weight seems like too much, I have a few release valves I like to tap into. One is food-related television. Another is Googling popular clothing styles of 10-15 years ago (Losers! Get with the times, 1999!). A third, albeit more brief activity, is long weekend hiking expeditions.
This weekend I skipped the TV and the name calling to take on a short section of the Appalachian Trail (Caledonia State Park, PA, to Pen Mar, MD). Just over 18 miles in length, and no soul-crushing climbs/drops, it is perfect for the Weekend Warrior in all of us.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity yet to explore the great outdoors this summer, I’ve developed a simple Hamsterdam hiking guide FAQ to alleviate any worries about your next outdoor fiasco. Sage advice, in which you will literally learn how to identify wild sage, and eventually be able to distinguish between other good and bad smelling things.
Q: I am worried about boredom. What is there to do out in a forest besides walk?
A: There is a litany of reasons why people go camping/hiking/outdoor activitying. But they almost all boil down to a common factor: free time. This is quite a novel concept, as free time is usually a lot farther down the list of “reasons why I do things”. The #1 reason is hunger, and #2 is #shitmygenitalssay. “Because I have free time” barely even makes it into the Greek God Pantheon of Reasons to Do Things (note: great idea for blog post, self; let’s never make it happen). Just accept that you’re going to have a lot of time to recall painful, suppressed memories, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Q: I have a really bad blister on the inside of my pointer toe. What’s the best treatment for this?
A: Okay, looks like that one foot in front of the other advice wasn’t helpful. You have to be extremely delicate when dealing with blisters. Luckily, this physical ailment can be remedied by applying a healthy coating of mosquitoes to the rest of your body. Soon you’ll be asking “What blisters?” as you scratch the living hell out of your tenderest regions. Dear God, please just end this now.
Q: Is a $200 sleeping bag really necessary? I have a $20 bag from Target that works just fine.
A: I’ve spent enough investing in packs, sleeping bags, food, and equipment now to qualify for some type of tax write-off. My advice: always get the more baller option. If there is any equipment with Swag’s face on it, that’s a a safe bet. Hikers are easily the most pretentious people out there, so you have to go little or go home (less is more in the world of hiking). The minute they see that heavy, well-padded, slightly ironic Tauntaun sleeping bag, they’ll turn their noses up, and not because you smell like a broccoli mayonnaise sandwich left out in the sun (you do).
Q: Okay, how about that wild sage?
A: You thought I was bluffing? Wild sage is commonly found rolled in small pieces of paper, provided by other hikers in their 50s after a long day. If you pretend to be interested in their stories, they will share some with you. If you’re applying for a government job, it’s best to avoid wild sage. Sage is a common ingredient in sausage, and dude, I could totally eat like two plates of sausage right now, for real. One good thing about sage is, when it hits you, you feel no pain.
Q: Aside from the puff-puff-pass with Wild Child, this seems miserable. It sounds like you’re just hungry and tired the whole time. Am I supposed to be getting anything out of this experience?
I guess my wisdom hasn’t fallen upon deaf ears. You will ache, you will be hungry. You will also be mentally crushed, because you spent three-quarters of a possible 48 hours in anti-relax mode, and only updated your facebook status twice. But the worst is having your friends try to justify the trip. Somehow, despite, or even because of the hardships, you came out a better person, and closer to them. Guess what? You’re not in the military, so none of that applies. Congrats, you’ve befriended a couple of real jerkwads. Actual rewarding experiences? Very few. Your TV won’t be on much over the weekend, possibly saving you a few pennies on the electricity bill.
Well, hope you’re ready to get out there and challenge the great outdoors! Good luck, and may the mosquitoes fill up on your vital fluids, and not mine.