Getting in the Spirit
On the Wild Side
Herein are told a few of the more zany things that have happened on the trail.
It was a warm, comfortable day around the Tsusiat waterfall. Many trekkers had stripped to relax and swim in the pool. Many were lazily sunbathing among the logs and on the sandbar. The tranquil scene was abruptly transformed by the arrival of a helicopter carrying curious tourists. The chopper landed in a swirl of blowing sand and disgorged four plump rich folk who tread carefully among the staring, disgruntled hikers. These invaders might well have been from another planet.
“A” for Accuracy
One anonymous hiker spins a story
The chaperone on our high school hiking trip liked to reminise about his previous West Coast Trail hikes while we sat captive around the evening campfire. One hysterical story had us all rolling off our logs. He’d gone to bed on a cool, starry night after drinking an abundance of coffee and awakened late in the night desperate to relieve himself. Moving like a blind bull, for he was a very big man, he emerged from his tent and immediately emptied his bladder into the moonlit shadows. The next morning, at first glance, he knew what he had done. His pack lay crumpled with a tiny pool of urine caught among its folds. His aim had been as true as a William Tell arrow. Later, as the sun warmed the soaked fabric, a pungent steam filled the trail around him. Needless to say, no one walked near him for long.
Lest we forget, the hike may mean living for seven days without our accustomed personal hygiene.
I met a trekker on a west coast beach who said with a deep and penetrating mystical voice “There are no flies on my pack, for I am clean. I need no fresh undergarment, for I wear none. Hide not that scented shirt for the last day! Glory in the smothering shock of damp cotton. Drink not but that which is pumped or boiled. Let the tidal zone purge your puckered bowels or suffer the claustrophobic stench of the pit. Heed my words; be among Mother’s chosen, or hike forever unheralded and mediocre without the status of wafting, smoked locks unsupported by stained and stiffened fabric devoid of the essence of trekker bonding.”
Severe Body Damage
Be prepared for blisters and pain!
Let me tell you a story about a dreaded condition known as SBD (severe body damage). Our buddy Roy, an executive computer geek, whose idea of roughing it was to wear clothing from Kmart, developed a blister on the bottom of one toe during the first day on the trail. By the second day he had a series of blisters on all of his toes and some ugly discoloration on the balls of his feet. Like all macho men, Roy made light of his new found tootsie sensors. As his blisters ruptured and deepened, strange odours, unlike those normally expected after a day in the boots, pervaded the tent. Alas, Roy was convinced that daily, bare-foot strolls in the healing surf would cleanse his worsening wounds. However, on the fifth day, we spotted vulture-like birds hovering overhead, undoubtedly drawn by the carrion odor wafting from his boots. Small, but significant body parts (toe nails, cartilage, etc.) began to drop off, but still his torturous gait carried him forward. On the sixth day, the end beckoned from a few yards beyond a final series of rocks. Visions of fresh socks, comfortable shoes and dress shirts distracted him. This poor de-nailed, limping, gimp-like person made one final rush. Wrenching, rivoting pain struck like lightning when an unseen rock collided full-throttle with the toes of his boots. We pressed him to explain how both boots struck at once, but he was in no mood to discuss it. The sudden stop jammed all his bleeding, putrid toes into the end of his boots and crushed his waining spirit. For several weeks afterwards, Roy winced on curbs and stairs like a shocked laboratory rat.
Aged is Best
“Mrs. Jones is coming with another woman. She’s just a few minutes behind.” the leader assured us.
I said, “Quite a lady! I can only hope I’ll be able to tie my own boots at her age”
Everyone was talking about the “old lady”. The sun moved behind the tall trees flanking Camper Bay, casting dark shadows across the beach.
“They better get here soon. It’s gonna be dark pretty quick!” someone said.
“No kidding,” I added, “I was exhausted four hours ago.”
Finally, the young group leader took off up the ladders. About thirty minutes passed. The sun was gone and the air had turned chilly. The forest would be dark and difficult for anyone except the most nimble-footed.
All eyes were turned toward the point, watching. Three silhouettes emerged. One hiker was bent over, obviously tortured by each step. Two packs were piled high on the shoulders of the tallest, who marched out in front.
“There she is!” I said. “Look at the way she’s walking. That poor woman!”
The third person was moving close beside the casualty, helping her. We all strained to pick out faces in the darkness. The young guide lumbered past under the packs, looking very fed up. Light from our fire touched the other two faces. A gentle and aged face greeted us with a smile. So this was Mrs. Jones! She was supporting the arm of a stooped and crippled figure about 50 years her junior! Mrs. Jones, it turns out was a gardener, and she was hiking comfortably in her old and sturdy gardening boots. She finished the hike in style!