Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Maryland Rocks: Part 9 - The Dangerous Moonlight

I've written frequently about how excited we are to get regular restaurant food after a few days on the trail, but truthfully, we are way beyond Ramen noodles and what we mostly eat are Mountain House prepared meals. If you boil the right amount of water and follow the directions closely, you get a meal in about 9 minutes that tastes better than you deserve to get for the work involved. It's expensive, about $8 a meal, but Paul and I found that we could get by splitting a larger meal and came up with less mess, and less cost. However, after a few times sharing the packet around other hikers and getting odd looks, we explained we were brothers before mealtime.
So, after a long day of humping our packs uphill and over endless rock fields, it was nice to enjoy a hot meal of freeze-dried beefstew, while watching the sun set over the mountains. It could have been even better, if Paul would have let me order the good stuff that Mountain House offered, but he had to be sure that there was no seasoning in there that would bother his stomach. Thus, instead of having something really interesting to my palate like Chicken Teriyaki or Peppersteak, I was sharing Beefstew, which was almost as good as a bowl of Campbell's vegetable soup without any salt, in other words, totally boring, but filling.

As we sat back in the grassy flat spot that was near a small gravel road that seemed to be for no particular purpose, we considered the cold and the possibility of just pitching our tents right here and getting up early refreshed for the next day. I proposed this as an alternative to marching back into the woods in the dark and hiking uphill until we found somewhere else to camp later on. The cold was getting into my bones and even if I was to lay sleepless all night it would at least be inside my really warm bag.
Then I saw a guy strolling by, walking his large dog. Where he came from and where he went, I have no idea. Paul didn't see him and swore it was a mirage. A few minutes later a truck came barrelling down the gravel track, slowing as it got near us. I was already hearing banjo music in my head, and quickly decided that I'd rather sleep on my feet in the woods than end up squealing like a pig (an unfortunate image that is buried in my movie memories right next to Jaws sequence of snatching the girl from the buoy).
This part of backpacking is the part that is the most difficult to newcomers, or at least to me: walking into the unknown, thinking that things will work out, when you don't really have a good reason to believe it. Our discussion turned to the distance to the next shelter and some kind of alternative. Unfortunately for us, we had something to worry about. The temperature was going to bottom out this evening, according to the forecast, and the forecast was for the town nearby, not the mountain we were on.  Paul and I both had good phone and data reception this trip, so technology was helping. Paul found that there was another road crossing ahead and apparently a free hostel nearby. In addition, this hostel would come pick you up. "A free place to stay, they pick you up and feed you!? That is better than awesome! What's the catch?" Paul replied, it was no big deal, but it was some kind of group that lived kind of like the Amish, except that they were especially kind to backpackers. All they expected in return was that you helped out a bit with the chores around the farm. I put in a quick call to Pam, to have her do some research. She got back to me very fast, saying stay away, it's a trap. They try to bring in lost souls, convert them and then have all of their earthly possessions transferred to the cult group. "Don't drink the Kool-Aid!" she said.

"No way, we are not going there! I'd rather sleep standing up!" I said. Paul started that twinkle in his eye again. He was getting excited about the possibility of having a late night meeting with the head of the cult and explaining to him that Jesus was a terrorist. I was thinking that I might actually be camping alone in the woods. There's no way these guy were going to get me out plowing a field all day while my IRA account was buying a new Mercedes for the cult leader. As much as I resisted, Paul pushed harder and I could see that I had found a fate that was actually worse than sleeping on the side of the road while a creepy old truck crunched by.
Paul called the Compound of the Twelve Tribes and arranged for our pickup. He turned to me and told us we would be in the bunkhouse with some other hikers they had snagged, and a hot dinner would be waiting for us. Paul is actually ecstatic, thinking of an organic meal, where every ingredient had been made from something right there on the farm, while between bites, he would debate some old guy with a long beard and a stovepipe hat. Me? I was thinking of what steps I could take to prevent brainwashing. I called Pam and told her our GPS location just in case "two hikers disappeared without a trace last night" came up on the news.
As we came up to the highway, I had no inkling that the biggest danger we faced in our lives was not from the cult group...

1 comment:

  1. You Should get weird looks if you’re humping backpacks.