Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Hike That Must Not Be Repeated: Part 3 - The Woman On The Mount

There is something we both witnessed on top of a mountain on our last trip, that made me question what I know, and if my mind had somehow taken a vacation, perhaps, a true 'rocky mountain high'.
First, you must understand a few things about backpacking to see how one could get to this state of mind. Right off the bat, by leaving the parking lot and heading into the woods with just enough food to last a few days, and just enough clothing to perhaps keep you warm (if the weather forecasters got it right), you have joined the small fraternity of folks that don't really appreciate why we have automobiles and air conditioning. You've willingly left civilization, flushable toilets, tasty food, coffee that has real cream in it, beds with cushy mattresses, and nice big pillows. It's entirely possible that you weren't quite sane in the first place.
Although your lucidity of thought could be questioned, there is no shortage of fellow travelers on the Appalachian Trail, at least in April. They come in all sizes and shapes, but perhaps the most telling feature of how serious a hiker can be, is how they smell. I do not mean, lean in close and see what kind of cologne they are wearing, I'm speaking of a cloud of odor that lingers in a 3 foot radius around the persona. One thing that is quite surprising at first, is a strikingly attractive young woman with a backpack and smells like a homeless person on the street at home. The very next thought you would have would be, "I wonder if I smell that bad yet? Did the Vikings smell this bad? Did English Royalty smell this bad back in the middle ages?" You never quite get over it, but at some point, you learn not to get too close to anybody. Most backpackers wear the same clothes for days, hanging them out at night while sleeping in their 'base layer', which is lightweight long underwear.
As you can see, smelly people in wrinkled, soiled clothing is the norm and what we are judged by is our demeanor. Meeting a person at the top of a climb, one should have a large smile on their face, a bright 'good morning!' and maybe a short phrase of 'you have a nice downhill in front of you!'. No matter what, you do not want to come off  as 'I don't know if I can make it...please tell me it's all downhill from here on out!"
You meet all kinds of people out there, but the most shocking time was when we ran across a woman on top of a mountain in North Carolina recently. Paul and I came up short, and while Paul was winding up a good yarn to tell this lady about the time he 'kilt a bar with a bowie knife', my eyes were growing wide as I took in the sight in front of me.
She was somewhere around my age, in her sixties as least, blonde brushed hair in some kind of cut that a grandmother might have, full makeup, bright red lipstick, a large least larger than mine, and clothing that looked like something a park ranger might wear. She had on a long sleeve cotton shirt, army colored, long matching cotton pants, and big boots. She was smiling, and glad to meet 2 youngsters out on a hike. As Paul completed his story with the part where he grabs the bear from behind, slashes his neck and then comforts the bear as he bleeds out, I was starting to realize just how crazy this, not Paul's story, the lady in front of us.
As we marched on, we discussed the possibility that we were losing our minds. This lady had hiked 5-6 miles up a mountain with a large backpack, by herself, wearing clothes that I might be able to wear if I was sitting at a picnic table, playing cards. At this very point, I was wearing shorts, short sleeve shirt and I was wiping the sweat from my face frequently. All this, plus, she looked what we call 'fresh', meaning, she had not exerted herself at all to get where she was...and she was made up like she wasn't planning on exerting herself either.
This is when Paul came up with the idea that we decided had to be the truth, since nothing else fit....she wasn't human. She was some kind of alien predator, that relied on the blood of young women to keep her youthful appearance. By lunchtime, we were certain this is what we had witnessed and were relieved that we had survived the encounter by being too old to be of any use to her...Standing Indian Mountain was ahead of us, and we had 2 miles to go. Before long, it was getting dark, and we were still going uphill. I kept hearing funny noises and would occasionally check behind me, but apparently, she had kept going in the other direction. My current worry at this point, I was running out of energy and there was too many miles to go...we weren't going to make it after all....

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