Acts of Faith

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I had my first encounter with one of the hill dwellers who, I’d been cautioned euphemistically, “isn’t real social.” As it turned out, we just ignored each other. I was taking a break at the side of the road, he was watering Some Kind of Plant Life 100 yards away, and neither of us acknowledged the other. Moments later I was on my way.

When you wander far into the boonies alone, it is an act of faith in people. Where phone service is hours away and the sheriff another hour or two after that, anyone you happen upon with a vehicle or a friend has an almost insuperable advantage over you, and if they wished you harm, they could do it with a free hand and complete privacy, and they would probably get away with it forever.

And yet the people I meet in the middle of nowhere prove cordial and downright benevolent. Most recently it was a couple of thick, rough men with neck beards in a Suburban who stopped to exchange a few words and offer water or a lift, and as they rolled away their parting words were “Stay safe.” I marvel at how nice people are even when they have no reason to be.

I’m not offering an ecstatic panegyric about the innate goodness of humankind personkind, just noticing that we are such social animals that even in settings where we can harm people with impunity, we mostly still do the opposite.

It doesn’t hurt that both parties can virtually take it for granted that the other is armed: an armed society really is a polite society. But by itself that would only explain a wary indifference, not the warmth, concern, and fellow-feeling that’s actually out there.

Torpid Taper

By the week before a competition, you’ve accumulated fatigue and it’s time to refill your tank with a week’s layoff. That means going easy and limiting yourself to foam rolling and active recovery (spelled “yoga”).

Everyone I know tries to screw this up. You’re resting and supercompensating from training stress and your body is gathering a huge charge of energy like a battery. You’re crackling with electricity and dying to discharge it, and even though your job is to restrain yourself and save your spunk for game day, you start to rationalize one more “moderate” workout … which itself is probably a bad idea and often morphs into a near-max effort. Or you get bored and monkey with your diet or embark on some other dumb eleventh-hour self-experimentation. Because you’re so restless and keyed up.

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Even the irrepressible Molly is infected by my lassitude.

But this week I feel none of that. I feel tired, sore, dinged up, and LAZY. Yesterday I napped for two hours and today I’d still like to camp on the couch. I’m worried I won’t get my mojo back and that Friday after dark, when it’s time to ruck til dawn, I’m going to want chamomile tea and a bedtime story.

“Sky’s Out, Thighs Out”

20180802_1021401Maybe I’ll just never wear pants again. That’s how awesome it is to ditch hiking in 2-lb. pants and a pinchy belt for the sublime freedom of the Silly Yoga Shorts.

I took advantage of cold weather today to simulate the much lower temperatures at GoRuck (55-60°F), and I learned a couple things. First, nothing beats short shorts! Second,  not only won’t I mind a heavy, long-sleeved military shirt in cold weather, I will positively need one (and a hat, and gloves) so I don’t get scratched up by log carries.

This was such a fine, fine, fine morning to be alive and healthy.

Freezebaby – In Memoriam JLH

larrabee-pensive-jodi.jpgThe air here stinks with raunchy, hot freshness

in our high, dry forest of fir and pine.

For cumulus clouds we have mottled tufts

of shadow and our water would burn fast

into vapor if only we’d brought some.

The polychrome riot of lands where you dwelt

visits these hills in a lesser palette,

a high earthen rainbow of browns.

Here the freeze babies may jog forever,

Padding alongside their heavy-heeled men.

They give no thought to chill. No meals to finish here. The joggers sip thin wind.

Here once a year we make peace, the old lovers,

here, only now, mostly safe from each other.

Into the Wild

To prep for the all-night ruck, I’m going out for a couple of days again in the Marijuana Highlands to conduct Official Scientific Inquiry.

Here are today’s dumb experiments Highly Dignified Research Questions.

1) How little food can I get away with? When I’m ketotic, I can go a long time comfortably without eating. This is really liberating, because it frees up time in my day, and space in my rucksack too.

On my last trip, I relied on an ad hoc mixture of peanut butter, berries, and a little protein powder, all blended into a paste. Sounds awesome, right? Surprise! It was disgusting, especially served warm. I brought 3500 calories’ worth of the stuff, but I could only make myself eat about half of it. Whoever said “Hunger is the best sauce” definitely had a good insight, but that doesn’t mean it makes anything palatable. At least not after only one day.

But I didn’t feel hungry at all, and when I got home my Tanita scale seemed to think that I’d tapped right into stored bodyfat to make up the difference. On this trip I’ll try to repeat the trick and make note of my “before” and “after” bodyfat %. Instead of the peanut butter mixture—sorry, my friends, not even for Science—I’ve got sardines and jerky (1700 cal, 575g).

2) Am I dressing right?   The event is two weeks away, and I’ve been warned to road-test every single piece of equipment I’ll bring, from boots and socks on up. On this trip, I’ll “interview” the Big Black Boots, my wool socks and sock-liners, and my best candidates for shirt and pants.

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Besides, the name is cool too: “Tropentarn.”

Quiv the Gear Sage has told me of an advanced phase of gearwhoredom in which one has tried everything possible and dialed in one’s preferences. I’m still far from that, but I’m showing a clear pattern: so far the stuff I like best is often German. Maybe they just happen to cut their trousers right for my Stumpy Wrestler Body, which is half Alsatian. (D-Zazzle, you opened my eyes about trousers with a nice, high waist.) And maybe the Germans really understand my northern European genes, because I’ve tried every kind of shirt I own for carrying heavy stuff through hot weather and I’ve found nothing that protects me from a killer sun as well as the Bundeswehr’s tropical shirt. So these days, my starting hypothesis is always “Bundeswehr.”

This time I’m trying to pack more judiciously and save weight, but it’s hard to get persnickety about 2 oz. here or there when I’m bringing 8L of water. That’s almost 18 pounds, amigos! However, after last time I resolved to always bring enough that I wouldn’t have to consider, comment disez, “recycling” water.

Fools Rush In

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20180716_102134Needing some Macho Meditative Solitude™, I made my first overnight backpacking trip. It must be true that “God takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States,” because I identify with two of those things and I survived my own rash enthusiasm.

But I did get in a little trouble. I was taking The Belgian Backpack (45# including food and water) through the Marijuana Highlands and down logging roads to a stream below, and I misunderestimated the distance: not 8-10 miles but fully 13 miles to reach water.

 

I quickly learned that, in this climate, the difference between “Happy as a Clam” and “Really Not OK” is running out of water. I actually began collecting Unappealing Remnants In Nalgene for Emergencies and, so help me, I was moments away from adding some grape flavoring and drinking it to stave off the first dehydration symptoms when, hallelujah, the stream came into view. I jumped in, whipped out my filter straw, and in moments I was happy again.20180716_175238

Happy but footsore and delirious. I’d had to make the trip on 3+ hours of sleep, and I still had to make camp, eat the disgusting food I’d brought, fix my feet, treat water for the next day, and lay things out so I could strike camp in the dark without losing stuff.

The morning’s walk back up was much easier and went as fast as yesterday’s descent. Apparently I can climb hills alright; after decades of squatting and deadlifting, my legs hardly slow down. But when I go down rocky slopes, as yesterday, I pulp my feet and if I have to walk in direct sun, I get feeble like Superman confronted with kryptonite.

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Along the way I met a young woman parked along a trail, the only person I’d seen for 24 hours. A friendly sort, she offered a ride and an invitation to spend a week camping with her. I was bowled over by her interest, especially looking and smelling as I did, but then I’m pretty sure she was on meth. So I consulted the Boy Scout Handbook, which advised, “Stay out of trucks with strange women on lonely roads, even ones in mesh tank tops. One way or another, you will end up in a hole in the ground.” So I pushed on.

20180717_075241But people in the foothills amaze me with their friendliness. It’s striking that I have only visited that area seven or eight times but already know as many people there as I do on my own street. (Granted, since pot growing provides most of the local economy, you hear of ornery recluses who are not friendly to strangers appearing on their land and you need to take “No Trespassing – Keep Out” signs seriously. But everyone I’ve encountered there has been exceedingly friendly, in a way that’s unimaginable even in a small, laid-back town like mine.)
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As it happened, at the end of this odyssey I had to go directly to two dental appointments, without a shower, and I had to warn the ladies there apologetically that I must smell like a galley slave. They smiled kindly, but I noticed they did not deny it.