Thursday, November 13, 2008
A Cautionary Tale
I have this dream. I want to take five or six months off from work, and do a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. So I have read a bunch of books by people who have done just that. I've read books about hiking techniques and equipment. And Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, which is pretty funny, although he did not accomplish a through-hike. The way it looks now, I may have to retire, and then hit the trail. But that's OK. Now I can read about fellow hikers out west: The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind - And Almost Found Myself - On the Pacific Crest Trail, by Dan White, for example, was good fun.
Dan White's writing is better than his outdoor skills, I think. I mean, after his partner, Allison, bought a fishing rod, he threw away food because he assumed they'd eat the fish she caught. She didn't catch any fish, partly because he had a schedule in mind that did not allow her enough time for that.
On another occasion, he dumped a bunch of drinking water, thinking it would save weight, as they were about to hike through some very dry terrain. Hours later, they were practically out of water. "'Did you know," Allison said... "that you can get water out of a prickly pear cactus?'... I laughed in triumph as I popped the cactus morsel into my mouth... I remember the pain, as hundreds of needles... plunged themselves...into my mouth, tongue, and gums... I spat out my spiny food, fell to the ground, and howled... 'You're supposed to remove the spines first, Dan!'"
Running out of food or water is not my idea of a good time. I don't think I would want to go backpacking with Mr. White. Allison ended up not completing the hike, because of a knee problem, he tells us (I would not have blamed her for making up such an excuse, for that matter.).
I wouldn't hike with him, but maybe I'll learn from his story. Hell, if this guy can hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I figure I can do the Appalachian Trail, no problem!