Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Things Backpackers Really Do

But don't actually talk about.

A good story requires conflict, suspense, adventure, and resolution. That's why there are so many good backpacking blogs, all full to the brim with great, hair-raising stories.

You know – a guy pitches his tent after getting caught in a ripping storm, crawls in covered with mud and the day's sweat, scrapes the dried residue of lunch from his pot, gets attacked by bears around midnight. Or mice. Mice attack too.

Anyway, a lot of these stories are bogus. Mostly backpackers aren't that stupid, but wish they were, so they could have good stories to tell, so they fudge.

Some things backpackers do but don't talk about.

Bathe frequently and wear clean underwear.

The one true badge of honor among backpackers is going grungy. Dirt is where it's at. You walk on it, you sleep in it, you eat all your meals sitting on top of it. And walking means sweat. Sweat means nasty socks and zombie undos. It's fun to talk about how you survived a week without any kind of bath, wearing exactly the same stuff, and how you made do, but most people don't do that.

They just take a couple of changes, rinse them out when they can, and at least sponge themselves off. Sometimes they go swimming, which is fun in itself. But being clean doesn't make a good story.

Never get lost.

Next to a story about nearly having your hide ripped off during a mountain-cracking thunderstorm is how you innocently took a wrong turn and walked into Hell. And couldn't get out for days. Because you lost your fancy GPS thingy, and something ate your map while you weren't looking. Sure. We believe that. Happens to all of us, all the time, doesn't it?

Eat decent food.

So about when you got yourself un-lost, you noticed you were on the edge of starvation and had to dig through garbage for anything at all less than half-rotten to eat. And since you were out of water too, you had to make coffee with your own urine. (Luckily, someone left a bag of coffee in the litter barrel for you, and you managed to hang onto just barely enough urine to make it work.)

Mostly though, you know? Doesn't happen.

These days only a screaming idiot starts off with a jar of peanut butter and some moldy crackers. The freeze-dried stuff is there if you can afford it, and any grocery has lots of dried soups, noodles, and rice, and butter. Butter goes with anything.

You can buy pre-packaged or mix up your own and have good eats without much fuss. But there's no story there, is there? Yawn.

Think how much more fun it would be at home.

Tired of boring scenery like mountains, lakes, and trees? Annoyed by creeping things with all kinds of legs running all over you 24/7? Burned out by sunny skies, temperate weather, and starry nights? Creeped out by crossing paths with rarely-sighted wildlife?

Well then, you've probably spent a bunch of your trail time wishing you were back home in front of the TV, with an easily-reached refrigerator full of tall cool ones, and no worries about sunburn, pests, or rangers.

Sure, everybody's goal is to get back home again, but for most of us, you know, if we really admit it, that's where we should have stayed. People really don't belong out of doors, or we would have been born with backpacks and hiking boots on. Think about all the problems that would cause during the average delivery and you understand why we're not really meant to be out there, so much, after all.

Which is what makes frightening stories so easy to believe, isn't it?