He hadn’t felt very strong ever since lunch. His backpack felt increasingly heavy and the big uphill into Pinto Park was yet to come. He was not a complainer and was intent on not starting to become one at this point. He wondered if the weakness that he was feeling maybe had something to do with the water that he’d gotten out of the creek during the break before lunch. He realized that he hadn’t even looked at his water in the bottle before drinking it. What if it was full of all kinds of weird stuff, he wondered to himself?
He’d never felt this way before, except for when he had Strep the year before. But there was no sore throat this time, so he was pretty sure that he didn’t have that. No, at least in his mind, this was something different.
As he wobbled along, he mostly thought of when the next break would be, although the whole idea that perhaps he’d just somehow become a wuss did periodically enter into his mind. Even though he’d called a lot of people wuss’s in the past, he realized that he didn’t actually know what it meant, but started thinking that maybe now he did, and that he’d become one.
He kept trying to readjust the shoulder straps and hip belt as he moved forward, but that only helped for a few minutes each time. The people in front of him kept getting further and further ahead and he could see that he was blocking the people behind him from staying up with the group. So, he faked a strap issue on his pack and stepped off to the side so that they could walk on past.
At this point, he was now at the back with the guide who was bringing up the rear. It would’ve been embarrassing for him to be in that position, except that he was struggling and working hard just to be able to keep moving at any pace, and was thankful just to be anywhere on the trail and going in the right direction.
And then the words of encouragement started.
“Way to go, you can do it, just keep moving, that’s it”, began coming from the 25 year old leader who was there at the back with him.
The rear. He’d never been at the back before and things looked different from the new perspective. He would’ve done more looking ahead, but it was demoralizing to him to see the rest of the group getting further and further ahead as they climbed up the steep open area leading up to Pinto Park Pass. Besides, the sweat coming from his forehead was getting out of control and every time he raised his head to look up it went into his eyes and burned.
Then, he needed a quick break and just stopped. As he just stood there, he pulled out his bandana and wiped his face dry and then looked up to see the group way ahead also stopped and sitting down– taking some sort of break of their own, he imagined. They must be at the high point of the Pass, he reasoned, as he gritted his teeth, put his head back down and began once again inching his way up the trail toward them.
Finally, he got there. As he walked up, he could see smirks saying “wuss” on some faces, looks of silent compassion on others, and a few strange non-descript expressions that he couldn’t quite pinpoint on the remainder. All of the good resting spots were taken, so he just got close to the group and let his pack drop almost right in the middle of the trail. He left it right there and walked over to a shady spot under a big pine tree and just sat down. After a couple of minutes, one of the compassionate looking people got up and walked over to his pack, intent on moving it out of the way.
He grabbed the haul loop sewn into the top of the pack and planned to just pick it up and move it off to the side. But, when he did, the thing hardly budged.
“Man, what do you got in there”, he queried? “This thing is heavy”.
With that, one of the other group members walked over and opened up the top flap. The newly anointed wuss backpacker wanted to protest the invasion into his privacy, but was too tired to respond. And then the rocks began to come out.
He was bewildered and confused at first as the guy pulled out rock after rock. Why, how, wait. He had questions. When all was said and done, 8 fist-sized rocks came out of his pack, totaling close to 50 pounds. He’d been thinking that it was heavier each time that he’d pulled it up and put it on, but had figured that it was actually just him getting weaker and not the fact that the pack was just way heavier than it should’ve been. But how did the rocks get in there to begin with, he wondered? Obviously, some unknown person did it, but his pack had never been out of his sight. Or had it? And then he remembered when he’d set it by the trail and went down to that little creek to get water before lunch.
He got up and walked over to his now lighter pack and picked it up. It felt significantly better, now that it was 50 pounds lighter. He looked around at faces, figuring that he would be able to figure out who it was. A few hours before he would’ve been planning his retaliation against someone who may or may not have even been involved and would’ve done something just because of the way they looked. But at this point, he was just too tired to even think about doing that. His answer could wait. For the first time in his life, he was content to just think it through first, see it from a few different angles and then, if he made the decision to do something, he’d do it later.
Eventually, the break ended and it was time to get up and get to the campsite. It was all downhill from the Pass and within an hour, they were at their destination. Each tent group cleaned off the loose rocks and pine cones from where they’d be setting up their tent. Once that was accomplished, they actually set them up and organized their sleeping bags and pads inside, so that once supper was finished they’d be ready to go straight to sleep.
The supper of pasta and chicken was filling and once the pots were clean everyone was ready to head to the tents, crawl into their sleeping bags and stretch out on their recently cleaned up sleeping spots, which they quickly began doing. Headlamps were shining everywhere and there was all manner of hustle and bustle as the backpackers got themselves organized for a peaceful night’s rest. Slowly, the lights went out and it became quiet, until someone from one of the tents yelled “Crap, that hurt. What in the world. I thought I moved all of the rocks away from here”.
Adventure humor to be continued…………