Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Frozen Floridians and Accidental Magic: Part 4

It is difficult to convey how so many different feelings can pass through your mind in such a short time while backpacking. One great feeling is that of being away from the craziness of regular life, heading to a place where all that matters is putting one foot in front of the other and the knowledge that everything you need and can have is right there on your back.

Yes, that is one awesome state of mind to be in, until you find yourself trudging along in the dark and cold, and suddenly realize that you have dropped your hat....somewhere behind you in the night. And your hat is a fantastic Under-Armour beanie that will keep a soul alive in the freezing cold mountain air...and you are bald-headed and the temperature is dropping to a place that you've not experienced since childhood in Minnesota.. It must be mentioned that in this particular case, the hat is black. The chance of finding it on the trail in the dark is about the same as finding a bear....nah, you'd find a bear first.

As I marched along with that single cone of light from my headlamp and started thinking about the predicament I was in, I realized how different life is when you can't just drive a little ways, pull out a credit card and get whatever you need.
The things we take for're hungry? Pull over and grab a bite at McDonald's. Need a shirt? Drive a few miles in any direction and there will be a clothing store. About as close as you can get to that feeling on the trail in normal life,  is driving far from home and realizing that you left your wallet behind. You realize then, "Hey, I'm going hungry" when a few minutes before, you were imagining a cup of coffee with a chocolate chip cookie..

I was going to have to survive 27 degrees for the next two days without a cover for my head. I thought of using my extra shirt as a head cover, and also wondered why in the world I had not opted for a jacket with a hood instead of the one I did buy that was a few bucks cheaper. Meanwhile, Paul was looking at me curiously over his cigarette at our break, probably wondering if I was going to be a liability and if he and Chase were going to divvy up my food rations and leave me on the trail whimpering alone in the dark. Fortunately, I had brought something extra along for my head. It wouldn't do much to keep me warm, but it was a cover, a buff, they called it in the he-man store, basically a berkah for men.

I pulled it over my head and tried not to think about what I was going to do when the temperature hit rock bottom. This trip I had already experienced the elation of going out with experience under my belt, and the best backpack and sleeping bag I could buy, but I was quickly earning the reputation of being the guy that loses the trail name "One Shoe" started solidifying in my brother's brain as the most apt name he had ever created for a fellow backpacker.

It was late in the evening when we came across another hiker heading back down the mountain. It was beyond pitch black and the moon and stars had taken the night off. They left behind a brisk cold wind that occasionally swooped in and reminded me that I was really going to miss that piece of headgear tonight. We chatted briefly with our newfound friend that was also crazy about hiking in the total dark, and found that we still had a lot to do before reaching our camp at the top of the mountain. As we parted ways, I mentioned that he might find a bit of accidental trail magic on the way down, and to please wear that hat all the way home and remember the guy who donated it....

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