In high school, my senior English teacher, the same one who had us look up f*** in the dictionary on the first day of class, taught us tai chi on the football field, and took us to see a play in Berkeley in which all the main characters turn into rhinoceroses, had us read an excerpt from Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War novel, The Things They Carried. The idea was that each man's possessions revealed his psyche. If you're willing to drag something through waist-deep mud and Viet Kong bullets, your choice must not be a haphazard one.
Beginning Friday, I'll be keeping three weeks of blog silence as I trek from Mt Whitney to the Yosemite Valley. On my back, I'll be carrying enough to sustain life (albeit a a dirty, footsore life at high altitude) for three weeks. I'm breathlessly happy about it. I have all my super-cool equipment weighed down to the gram, perfectly distributed in my trusty Crestone internal frame pack. (I am more like my father everyday) I have a day pack, full of the most essential equipment, that I can detach at a moment's notice in case of emergency. I have a large water bladder with a spout that feeds through a hole in the side of the pack directly to my mouth. I have a bear-proof canister for food and scented toiletries. Essentially, it's a giant aspirin bottle with a child-proof cap, on the theory that toddlers and black bears are alike in curiosity, temperment, and dexterity. Black bears do, it must be granted, have more hair, but this is immaterial to the design of the canister. It should also keep out marmots and chipmunks, which are apparently rather aggressive. I have pounds and pounds of home-dehydrated, high-calorie food, all of which tastes excellent but looks discouragingly like cow pies or owl pellets. I have hiking boots and water shoes, trekking poles and a bivy sack, a one-man tent, a utility knife, and a shovel. I have a topographical map, a compass, Vaseline, sunscreen, and baking soda to serve as toothpaste. I have aspirin, gauze bandages, and the generic for Diamox, an altitude sickness medication. I have a water filtration system, iodine tablets, a satellite phone, electrolyte energy mix, a miner's headlamp, and toilet paper. I have the smallest Bible you've ever seen and a locket with a picture of my dad. I have a trail journey and a throwaway camera with nineteen pictures on it (that's less that one per day), but one word is worth a thousand pictures. I have Long Johns, biodegradeable soap, waterless shampoo, and a towel the size of a table napkin. I have pepper spray, a wristwatch, prescription sunglasses, a wilderness first aid guide, and a needle and thread. I have a poncho, Hefty bags, a cold-weather jacket, and . . . lots of other stuff, weighing in nicely at 40 pounds. I'm not sure whether I'm entiring the wilderness, or only passing through with travel-size civilization behind me.
And don't worry, as soon as I come back, I'll tell you about every stinkin' tree for 220 miles.
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