Friday, August 9, 2013

The Day I Hated Outside

Back when I was in college, I used to go camping and hiking with my dad fairly often. It's something we both really enjoy and we always had a lot of fun. Except for one trip. One trip was the closest thing to Hell I think my body has ever experienced.

It was a stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail that is considered "one of the more challenging sections" of the entire trail. So, honestly, probably a little beyond our abilities. We looked at the map and marked out our trip. We'd do seven miles the first day, camp at a site on Bear Lake, then get up and hike the remaining five or so miles into Silver Bay the next day. Sounded simple enough.

We set out with our packs and the first couple of miles were great. Until we hit a wall. Literally. The trail ran into a rock face and we had to climb about thirty feet. There were easy handholds all the way up making it almost like a ladder, but ladders are f-ing tricky with a forty pound pack on your back. We made it to the top and then the strap on my dad's pack broke. Being the MacGyver type, he managed to rig it back up with a scrap of wire he found so we could continue. But the good moods we started the hike with were definitely dwindling by this point.

We trekked on for the remaining four or five miles to our campsite. The trail was tough. There were lots of steep hills and we found ourselves using our hands and knees as much as our feet. It was exhausting work. At one point, we crossed a small stream and spent nearly forty minutes soaking our hot and tired feet. Neither of us wanted to go on, we weren't having any fun anymore, but we had no choice.

Then we finally, finally, made it to our campsite. And it was total bullshit. The entire ground was covered in chunks of granite and there wasn't a single area of space that even resembled a level surface. No way we could even set up our tent, let alone sleep in it. It was obvious that we couldn't stay there, but I wasn't ready to deal with that news.

"Come on, kiddo. You know we can't sleep here," my dad reasoned. "We're going to have to push through all the way to Silver Bay." But my body ached and I refused to take another step on that trail. I needed serious motivation. "When we get to town, we'll go straight to Dairy Queen," he said.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. Nothing can get you moving in hot, humid weather like the thought of ice cream. So with every blistered step I took I chanted, " Lemon Lime Mister Misty. Lemon Lime Mister Misty."

After four miles we topped a hill and Silver Bay's water tower came into view. Our pace quickened as we hit the edge of town. When I finally saw that Dairy Queen, it shone in the setting sun like a god damn beacon. After eleven miles in one day with forty pounds on my back, I had reached my salvation. We dropped our packs at the door and I nearly collapsed on the counter.

"I need a large Lemon Line Mister Misty," I rasped.

"I'm sorry," said the kid at the register. "Our Mister Misty machine is broken"

I heard the words, but it's like they didn't make sense. Was this little punk seriously denying me the one thing that had kept me moving for the last three hours?! Luckily, we had left our packs outside, so there were no guns within my reach. Because briefly in that moment, I could sort of understand mass shootings.

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