Wednesday, March 5, 2008

This is No Boy Scout Trail

Barry Yelton

From the moment we start up the forty degree gradient
our feet slipping on the wet leaves and rolling twigs

I know this hike was planned by Satan

We struggle up the steeps for three hundred yards
then the trail moderates for a quarter of a mile before the switchbacks

More fun to be had on the switching, rock climbing, root grabbing
seep laced trail. Am I sure I want to do this?

The first backpack is always the toughest. They say it gets easier.
Today seems to go on forever, until I walk 100 feet then stop and pant
and lean over, hands on my thighs, my thousand pound pack
shoving me forward, my heart pounding jack hammer strokes
not good for a man of 54, who’s eaten too many Big Macs
and sat behind a desk for too many years.

My more fit companion is patient. He stops, takes pictures and smiles knowingly.
We aim for a summit seven miles and 3,000 vertical feet distant
We are not going to make it. Let me rephrase...I am not going to make it.

So we stop and drop our packs on some conveniently placed boulders
An outcropping on the mountain side made for an exhausted hiker.
My partner scouts ahead and leaves me in the bear infested forest
(Was that something moving down the trail?)

He returns after what seems three hours with good and bad news
A good campsite for the night, but a steep scramble off the trail
We take it.

I feel better. Night falls, we eat potatoes and onions, grilled on a camp stove
The dark envelops us enfolding our universe
The air gets cold, early April at 5,000 feet in the Blue Ridge
We watch a blazing illegal campfire a half mile down the mountain side
and though tempted, we don’t build one

Settling in to the tent for the night, the wind whispers up the mountain side
singing a post modern melody as old as the moon
the bag is warm, the leaves underneath are soft
quiet conversation ebbs, as sleep comes on the final tide

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