Saturday, November 2, 2013

Class Act

Want to sleep on that?

Let's hear it for ideas. Ideas, and not much else, separate us from other monkey-like creatures and possibly some of those things that live in the basement and mutter about Creeping Socialism and Britney Spears being so disappointing these days.

Well, in keeping with that, how about developing a difficulty rating for backpacking trails?

I've got nothing else to do, and maybe you don't either, so it sounds like we have a committee, and since all good ideas come from committees, we'd better get started.

Class 1: Getting out of bed.

This sounds really easy but does take practice. Most accidents occur in the home, and home is where you spend most of your free time, and no one likes getting out of bed, even if there is fun stuff going on somewhere, so we have issues to work through here, right?

Getting out of bed works reliably only after lots of practice, by developing a dependable routine with a smooth, flowing, and supple follow-through.

Luckily, few route-finding skills are needed in moving from a horizontal in-bed position to a vertical near-bed stance. The path to the bathroom (which comes next) is commonly well-marked, free of obstacles, and should already be familiar. This is also good.

We mention the bathroom here because getting to it is a common and often critical first step after climbing out of the sack, so it's a great (and easily recognizable) destination for beginning backpackers.

Most Class 1 hikes take place in urban or suburbans areas, and indoors. There is nothing wrong with that, but after a while you get tired of pancake breakfasts and a view of the Motel Five parking lot.

Which means it's time for...

Class 2: Extra-Pavemental Movement Activities.

I know – scary – but we've all gotta do it sometime.

Class 2 is defined as hiking that could require some level of conscious effort, or at least consciousness, and a taste for adventure. After all, you don't really know what's out there in the weeds besides the neighbor's cat, and you never did get along with him anyway.

Unpaved ground is also strange. It's oddly uneven and consists entirely of dirt. These are things you'll eventually need to come to terms with. Counseling may help, and be sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you do anything bold.

If you see things sticking out of the ground, they're probably plants, unless they are moving. In that case there is either wind or who knows what. Remain vigilant but affect an air of casual confidence, even if you wet your pants the first few times. (Many report that adult diapers help.)

Bouts of vertigo or minor panic are not unusual. Some find it helpful to tie one end of a string to the car, and the other end to their pants, making a quick retreat possible. (Note that this does require a special two-ended string in order to work properly.)

But it's all too easy to trip over string, so forming a human chain might be better. Everyone holds hands, which is reassuring, and then you can throw a few expendables at anything dangerous while beating a hasty retreat for yourself, if necessary. (Keep this in mind.)

Class 3: For the real thrill seekers out there.

First, leave town. Seriously. You have to do it.

Then, find a trail.

To find a trail, first buy a map. Inspect said map for telltale lines. Any line you see may be a trail, or not. (This is where experience really pays off.)

If your chosen line is a trail, try walking on it. If it wiggles it's a big snake and you are dinner, so here's hoping you brought your (waterproof, bite-proof, and squeeze-proof) camera for a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op.

But if it isn't a snake you may have found the long-lost route to the mysterious and sought-after Fountain of Youth. If you do find something that looks like it may be the place, check your diaper for confirmation.

Well, that's about it for now. There are other, more advanced levels of backpacking, but I need a nap. How about you? Time for a little rest after all this exertion? I thought so.

Just kick back for the rest of the day, and we'll let 'er rip next time.