Just Another Day
What began as a light drizzle had morphed into a torrential downpour.
I was only three miles from my final destination for the night. I broke into a trot, hoping to reach the monastery before everything was drenched. But within a matter of minutes, I was soaked to the bone — my boots filled with water and the trail turned into a muddy river. This unleashed a verbal outburst that would have made the most foul-mouthed sailor blush.
But then I froze in my tracks and laughed, aware of how ludicrous the situation was. It was raining so hard I could barely see. The trail was so flooded I was wading through ankle-deep muddy water to go sleep in a field outside a monastery, of all places.
The entire day had been an exercise in ridiculousness.
Earlier in the day, my buddies and I had staked out vending machines perched atop Bear Mountain, NY … Safari nearly over-dosing on almost 60 ounces of Powerade, soda and lemonade (consumed in 30 minutes). From there, we had tumbled down the mountain to where the trail had led us through the middle of a small zoo. Rather than dodging rocks, we sidestepped toddlers and baby strollers. Rather than passing through open woods and by wildlife running free, we walked past trees and moss encircled by fences and animals pacing back and forth in small cages.
And after popping into a neighboring town for food while the others kept hiking, I faded back into the woods.
I closed my eyes, raised my arms and tilted my head toward the sky, feeling the rain bead on my skin and run down my body. Like a small child, I grinned mischievously and opened my eyes, staring at the muddy mess before me.
And then I jumped. Muddy water splashed everywhere, mingling with the falling rain drops. I grinned even wider and hopped and jumped down the trail, making sure to hit the deepest, muddiest water I could find. At this moment the woods were my personal playground. I yelled and hollered, splashing about in my own makeshift rain dance. I slyly looked about, realizing there was no one else near me.
What is a person to do when alone in the woods in a rainstorm, soaked to the bone and covered in mud with miles left to walk? A musical montage, of course!
“You’re just too good to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off you.
You’d be like Heaven to touch …
Oh, pretty baby,
Don’t bring me down, I pray.
Oh, pretty baby, now that I found you, stay …”
I belted out the words, as loud as I could, to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” As I took pride in my complete lack of singing ability, I twirled and tossed my trekking poles while dancing my way down the trail. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” made an appearance, and of course no medley would be complete without Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
The rain continued to fall, but I ignored it. I ignored the water sloshing from my shoes, rubbing potential blisters on my feet. I ignored the wet straps of my pack rubbing my skin raw. And I ignored the chill creeping into my body from being soaked. This is my secret to surviving the hardships of the trail while maintaining some scrap of sanity after months in the woods.
I can’t speak for other hikers, but in order for me to get to Katahdin, to keep walking, and not go insane, I must find the positives in the situations in which I find myself. My weapons: Sense of humor and high level of sarcasm. And so what at first glance was an oppressive rainstorm soaking my gear and boots became an opportunity to sing and dance in the rain, play in the mud … and feel alive.
By the time I reached the monastery, my friends, along with six or so other hikers, were hanging out under a wooden-roofed structure, already changed into dry clothing. One of them spotted me and laughed, “Ace, ah dude you’re lookin’ rough!”
I grinned, unwilling to reveal my trail dance, and shrugged, “Just another day in the woods, I suppose.”