Saturday, August 20, 2011

backpacking


The other day a few avid marathoners, an iron woman, and an ex-green beret got together and asked me if I would like to go backpacking with them. Normally I'm able to get out of these situations by pointing to the obvious differences between me and people like that, highlighting the complete absence of physical achievements of any kind in my life, but, since these all happened to be family members, I was stuck.

Incidentally: how fair is it that I get born into the family full of super people? Seriously. There were a couple dozen marathons, a dozen century bike races, an ironman triathlon, and who knows how many parachute jumps into dark swamps between the rest of the crew versus a good ol' hey-look-at-me-pant-like-a-dying-horse1 Chris.

As is customary when we go on family backpacking trips, we spent our time trying to get me to hate my life through what my father calls torture therapy hiking into mosquito-ridden swamps eleven thousand feet above sea level.2 This we did while carrying lead weights camping gear on our backs, and attempting to whistle so that our sisters didn't suspect that their brother was about to collapse from sheer exhaustion after the first fifty meters just a little tired.

Incidentally: does anyone know how much oxygen is in the air at eleven thousand feet?

Well kids, let me tell you: None. I know this because I just spent a week looking for some. This was made most evident at around 10:00 PM on the first day when I realized I was lying in my sleeping bag. Panting. I hadn't done anything for an hour and yet I was wheezing like a four hundred pound man on a fifth floor walkup.

Day two was made more enjoyable by the recurrence of my good old friend, the blister. Even more enjoyable was when I realized I couldn't determine if my feet had more blisters or mosquito bites. How do you get mosquito bites on your feet? I don't know. That's one of the mysterious joys of backpacking.

Protip: Avoid mosquito bites on your face by purchasing a mosquito net. Yes, you look like a weenie. Yes, it will spare you pain.

Proprotip: Don't sneeze while wearing a mosquito net. Trust me.

Unrelated: Anyone know if you can wash a mosquito net?

On day two we also managed to participate in another Perry family classic: bushwhacking.

For those of you not in my family, bushwhacking is a technical term invented by my father to describe the act of getting hopelessly lost in desolate rocky tundras after taking a "shortcut" through a meadow mere feet before encountering the actual trail you were supposed to take. It also involves using walkie talkies to track down all of your posterity to prevent them from getting lost and surely dying in an endless expanse of wilderness.

All in all, I'd have to say it was a successful trip. I learned a lot.

I learned how to start a fire with wet wood (get my dad to do it).

I learned how to navigate the backwoods using a topo map and the sun for direction (get my dad to do it).

I learned how to cook delicious camp food (get my dad to do it).

I also relearned a lot.

I relearned how to dig a cathole.

I relearned how degrading it is to use a cathole.

I relearned what it feels like to have swarms of opportunistic mosquitos bite you on your nether regions while you furiously swat and attempt to maintain balance over aforementioned cathole.3

And I also relearned what it's like to be humiliated by being the biggest sissy in the family.

Looking forward to next time, oh family. Boy am I looking forward to next time.

1. Lest you think I don't know what I'm talking about: I have actually witnessed the death of a panting horse. It involved a baptismal interview, a savage beating with a large pole, a man who attempted to shoot me, and a dozen hungry Argentines stripping the carcass bare for food. But that is a story for another day.
2. Sea level, of course, being God's altitude.
3. I also relearned that if you use the facilities early enough the sleeping mosquitos won't bother you...which means that I slept about two hours every night, trying to time exactly when I could take care of the essentials without arthropodic interventions.

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