The last mile to the campsite is the longest one.
By mid afternoon I am amazed at the distance covered. My thoughts then turn to anticipation of a relaxing evening. I imagine a lovely, flat, open area. Maybe it’s a meadow. A place frequented by hobbits, nestled between tall pines and oaks, with a gentle, welcoming breeze.
An hour later I am nonplussed that this magical campsite remains so far away!
A Cup Of Tea Governor?
In the hiker community it is not difficult to find a forum with the focus of lightweight backpacking. This is good. We all quickly learn the value of ditching those unnecessary items. Shed the weight.
I find, however, there is a balance. Of all the reasons I spend time in the wilderness, not one of them includes finding ways to purposefully make myself miserable. Nature does not require assistance in this area.
At home, in the evenings after a nice dinner, I enjoy relaxing to a book with a warm cup of tea. Maybe I’ll have some shortbread cookies. Playing the part of midlife has its perks. These simple pleasures are small and do not weigh much. A few tea bags and some cookies. They are essential items in my backpack.
Ask three hikers their daily meal routines, you’ll likely receive three different answers.
Yes, food is a factor when I think about total weight. And yes, I consider foods which provide energy and keep my electrolytes in balance. Within these considerations my focus turns to things I enjoy.
I love salty food. Peanuts. Crackers with peanut butter. Sweet and salty peanut butter bars. I don’t like protein bars. I’d rather eat cardboard. Trail mix? Nah. I never seem to find the right combination.
Good morning sunshine! Cinnamon & spice oatmeal after coffee? Now we’re talking, homeslice.
Let’s have a lunch break on top of Bald Mountain in Tennessee. Sweet-hot Spicy Tai flavored tuna fish rolled in a soft tortilla. Toast Chee peanut butter crackers. Salt & pepper cashews. We have ourselves a gourmet lunch!
Or maybe our lunch is on a rocky outcropping in Georgia in the fall. There’s a slight breeze and it’s barely 50 degrees. Time to boil water for chili flavored ramen. Peanut butter crackers remain on the menu. You might have noticed a trend. Maybe I’ll have another helping of those crackers, if it pleases the reader.
What's For Dinner?
Now that I’ve finally made it to Hobbit Village, I need to read the directions for my dinner.
“Tear this pouch open and remove oxygen absorber.”
Why do they put those things in there?
“Add a little less than one cup (225ML) of BOILING (yes, boiling) water to bag.”
Hmm. They seem serious about this hot water thing.
“STIR and reseal. HANG OUT for 15 minutes. Think about how big the universe is.”
I like this company. I hope it tastes good.
“OPEN. STIR AGAIN. EAT. SMILE.”
I have complied sir. See my smile?
I’ve met hikers who dehydrate their own meals. I might do this someday, but for now I enjoy the convenience of purchasing freeze dried meals. There are so many out there! And, okay, I also like to visit outfitter stores.
“Hi. My name is Jerry.”
The crowd responds, “hi Jerry!”
“Okay. It’s been two weeks since I was last here. Wow. So. Okay. I’ll just let it out. I like REI. There! I said it! Whew! I feel so much better now.”
Beyond the enjoyment of browsing for hours in the magical land of expensive gear, I love the simplicity of freeze dried meals at camp. The only dish I have to wash is my very light plastic fork. Following dinner, my next major decision is the flavor of tea. Vanilla chamomile honey usually wins. Sometimes raspberry pomegranate will be just the right choice.
There are leaves scattered about, and bare branches. My gloved hands are cupped around my aluminum mug. Breaths are visible as we recount the adventure of a 14-mile hike, and discuss our plans for a lunch location the next day. As the conversation continues I gaze over to my sleeping bag. Sitting atop is my Kindle Paperwhite E-reader. Very thin. Six ounces.
When I left the story last night, Fitzchivalry was attempting to awaken dragons. I wonder if he will succeed?
“Well, I believe it is time for me to crawl into my sleeping bag.”
I am pleased with the concurring responses from my hiking companions. As I nestle in and find the perfect position for reading, my thoughts invariably turn to the morning. When a hiss will turn to a hum after the flick of my lighter. This is followed by the aroma of fresh coffee grounds from a small farm in Nicaragua, added to a filter, and soaked with boiling water.
Gray light permeates the forest. There is a rustling of fabric against sleeping pads from the surrounding tents. A distant hoo announces the presence of an owl. Hobbits may not be real. The magic of the forest is.
And coffee. Sipped during the morning twilight. That is also real.