The Backpacker

Story on a theme:  OVER THE HILL

“Man, I feel fresh. I feel great. The weather is perfect and my backpack isn’t uncomfortable. It’s time to charge ahead to the lake and make camp,” I think as I begin the hike. I’ve only got twelve miles to get to the lake and the first part is going to be very scenic.

Walking with a fresh zip in my stride I attack the trail, whizzing by other lesser hikers that get into my path. I’m alive; invincible and on a mission to camp. The sun begins to arc higher across the blue sky and the sweet smell of the forest permeates down onto the trail. Droplets of sweat bead up under my pace. I’m making excellent time. I stop to take a few pictures of the waterfall across the canyon.

The terrain turns rocky. I force my gaze downward, ahead on the trail in an effort to keep from tripping. The seemingly endless rocky sections are taking a toll on my feet. With every awkward misstep from a rock, my ankles twist with a twinge of pain over their sudden abuse. I take in some water to cool down and look at the time. It’s nearly lunch time; I’ll try and press on a bit further before I enjoy my lunch.

“I don’t understand why I continue to make peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches when they always do this,” I mumble while staring at the flattened soggy sandwich I’m faced with for lunch. Even the fruit I brought tastes drab. I hurry through the meal; glad of the time to dry off my sweat-soaked back and relieve my aching shoulders from their weight burden.

Continuing back on the trail, I move back to my methodical pace. The zip in my stride is gone; replaced by a never ending repetition of one foot in front of the other. Passing away from the canyon and onto the hillside, I stop. The terrain is now quite steep and switchbacks to ascend the hilltop.

“The lake must be over the hill,” I think to myself as I try and find a comfortable position with my backpack and begin the ascent. Up and up I go; as if this hill were some sort of major mountain. “Why couldn’t they have lengthened these switchbacks and not made this so steep?” I question to myself as I round yet another steep switchback on the trail. I’m sweating heavily now and it’s rolling into my eyes and burning them. I forgot my handkerchief to wipe the sweat off with.

Ascending the hill finally, I smile at the notion that I will be approaching the lake very soon. The trail winds through a dense forest and begins uphill steeply again. “What? Another hill? Oh; the lake must be just over the hill,” I tell myself in an effort to convince me that this is justified and ok. Slowly, with a tired step, I plod on upward.

The pack is now heavy and uncomfortable. The sun’s heat is near zenith and growing uncomfortable. Each switchback is a disappointment that the hill continues on. After what feels like forever, I finally summit the hill only to find another waiting for me on the other side.

“It’s got to be over the hill,” I question myself in a dejected effort to continue on but realizing my fitness isn’t what I thought it was and that the miles are taking longer than I expected. Each and every hill I do the same thing: Ask, “the lake must be over the hill” and each and every summit yields to a bigger, steeper hill than the one I just encountered. Finally, with the sun waning and my thoughts dulled to the point of only being able to move forward I stumble into the lake “just over the hill."

The evening would be spent cooking and recuperating. The next day would be spent complaining about the endless descent back to the car. The next week would be spent retelling the adventure. With each passing week, month and year the actual trip would be blurred into a lovely picturesque adventure of ease and tranquility.

1 comment:

Mrsupole said...

I went over the hill and the lake was still not there, but first was here.

Okay I have to stop but I won't. I am glad he found the lake, though for a minute I thought he wasn't. Or is it a she. But if it is a he then it explains why he never stopped to ask about the shortcut to the lake that the other hikers were taking.

God bless.