Had you asked me in mid-August if spaghetti fried with peanut butter, vegetable oil, soy sauce, nuts, raisins and the contents of a week-old spice kit would be edible, I would have replied no. Fast-forward a few days and call the dish “Thai Surprise” and I am begging for another bowl.
Of course, I walked 12 miles that day, 12 miles of the 100-Mile Wilderness somewhere between Lake Namakanta and Mt. Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail. Everything I put in my mouth tasted like heaven. The way that strange mix of leftover food went, I have a feeling everyone else on that Maine Bound OPTIONS trip felt the same way. There were 10 of us-three leaders and seven freshmen-hiking the last 40 or so miles of the AT during our last week of freedom before school started.
Day one: it rained and I stubbed my toe so bad it bled everywhere. Nobody spoke. Really, really bad mojo for the rest of the trip. But the rain stopped and a through hiker – a thin, grizzled old retiree – gave one of the guys his trail name, “Camel Man.” It had nothing to do with his ability to hold water and plenty to do with the man’s smoky voice.
Day two was almost worse. That was the first 12-mile day, mostly spent staring at each other’s 60-pound packs. Trudging, sweating, wanting to keel over and die most of the time.
But it all changed day three. It could have had something to do with the chili we ate day two and the consequent trail bombs everyone was dropping day three. I think it was more about only hiking seven miles. That seemed like a cake walk. It was also the first time we really saw Katahdin. The end. The peak. Our goal.
But it was also because at that point we were trail stupid.
Trail stupid is an incredible form of the giggles. Everything is funny, especially bodily functions. You talk about those a lot on the trail. Either your stomach is empty and bothering you, or it is emptying itself and bothering everyone else.
Trail stupid makes the most moronic things funny. One of the other leaders made the mistake of saying “I pity da fool who touch my sack.” He meant his stuff sack, but he has yet to live the comment down. Ten people, sitting around a fire in the middle of nowhere, laughing at nothing because there was no one to laugh at us for it. It was a wonderful experience.
Now, the whole experiences is a blur of vocabulary words-like trail stupid-and snap shots. The woods, far away from any buildings or cars, looking more like something out of a story book than reality. The sight of Katahdin from 40 miles, from 20, and then across Dicey Pond in Baxter State Park. The moose we saw on the last day as the van careened down the narrow, dirt perimeter road for the last time. The moon the first night in Baxter and the lightning the second night as I lay huddled in my sleeping bag-which was in a garbage bag-trying to stay out of the worst storm of the summer.
Storm and struggle, laughter and food, the beauty and the beast of the Maine wilderness. Memories that will be my rock, as stable as Katahdin, for as long as the wilderness is wild.
Amanda Hebert is a senior journalism major.