My decision to flee the trappings of civilization last week came suddenly while I was sitting at home eating circus peanuts and watching The Price is Right. When I told my wife, close friends, and family that I was leaving, they were all a little shocked, but deep down they all knew this day would come. I'm simply not made to handle the rigors of Detroit, and have never fully adapted to the city. My mind is far too fragile and my temperament still has some remnant of carefree spirit, despite the hard miles compounded through years of pollution, noise, and crafty pyramid schemes. Yet there is still hope for me. My loved ones understand this and that's why they let me go to Montana to live a life of seclusion. Like a homesick tropical bird, longing to frolic in banana groves, I am being set free so I can stretch my wings to their fullest, sing the song of freedom, and strategically drop fecal payloads on overpriced Jaguar sports cars and Eddie Bauer SUVs.
Ok, well maybe I’m being a little over-dramatic like the time I decided to become a train conductor or was positive I had cancer. I’m not fleeing the city for good, but today I’m leaving for Montana on a long camping trip that will take me to Glacier National Park, where I will be doing a ten day ridge walk on a mountain trail just south of the Canadian border. This is by far much farther and tougher than anything I have ever done before, and will put my willpower and my soft tender ankles to the test. If I pass, the rewards are generous, but if I fail, death will be my only bounty. This very serious task has prompted me to refresh myself on the tips and trades of extreme camping that I have learned over the years and by watching Grizzly Adams as a child. I hope that while I am teaching myself these vital facts about mountain hiking, I can teach you something as well. Not that you would ever go outside, unless it’s to go out to Wal-mart for a plastic bin of cheese balls. NERDS. (By the way I am insinuating I am better than you because I eat granola and sleep outside in bug infested swamps.)
Equipment: In order to survive out in the wilderness for over a week, you will need a reliable waterproof tent, sturdy backpack, sleeping bag (preferably rated 15 degrees and made of down feather), and comfortable Gore-Tex boots. Once you have all the basics you need to get a water filter, a stove, fuel, clothes, and a lot of Vicodin. These things will cost you over a thousand dollars, and you will find it very tempting just to stay in the wilderness until the credit card companies send a team of collectors after you, forcing you to play a game of cat and mouse in the wilderness and make deadly traps to kill the accountants one by one like the first Rambo movie. Nothing is as exciting and exhilarating as seeing a credit card accountant walk unawares into a wooden spike trap, crippling him for the rest of his natural life. Welcome to the jungle four eyes!
Food: The first real hiking trip I went on was a disaster, mainly because I brought the wrong types of food to eat on a long trip like this. Being a foolish lad who was very particular about the types of food I liked to eat, I just brought a couple dozen gravy packets and some Nerds candy. Needless to say, this did not sustain me for the large amounts of energy I was burning, and I was forced to beat one of my camping mates to death with a stick and eat his carcass to survive. I’m just kidding, of course. I used a rock, not a stick. Learn from my mistake and bring freeze-dried meals, granola mix, and lots of heavy cans filled with sweet peas.
Training: In order to do something as rigorous as walking miles across rough mountain trails, your body needs to be in tip-top shape through exercise and training months before your departure. I know the word “exercise” might cause some of you to flee or cover up the ugly words on your monitor with a spray of Cheez-Whiz, but if you want to be able to go to the secret glens and valleys where untainted nature is all yours to pollute, then you have to get there the hard way. Or you could just do what I do and hire a team of Sherpas to carry your gear and hand feed you grapes.This is a dramatic recreation of a real event that happened to me on my last trip.
Bear Safety: Whenever you are going to an extremely remote and wild area of America, there is bound to be bears. I’ve had a few encounters already and most of them just consisted of a bear glancing at me and walking away, except for that time where I found a cub and tried to wrestle it and ended up getting the mother a little angry at me. I watched a bear safety tape and you are supposed to wear bells on your feet and smack two sticks together while shouting “hey bear!” over and over again while you walk. This is supposed to scare the bear away before it sees you, but if one of my fellow hikers did this, he would have to worry more about me killing him than some bear. Rather than wear fruity bells on our feet, we are bringing something called bear mace that is like mace but nasty enough to repel a grizzly. Either that or really piss him off enough to kill you swiftly instead of just gnawing on your leg. Also, during the night you should always bear bag your food. That’s when you toss a sack of your food over a large tree branch away from your camp so the bears can’t get it. For extra safety, it’s a good idea to bear bag yourself as well, and bring a goddamn shotgun.
Mountain Lion Safety: Run like a motherfucker.
Billy Goat Safety: Please don’t think this is a joking matter because it’s not. The billy goat is far more dangerous than the bear and mountain lion combined, assuming some mad scientist could breed a mountain bear lion. Known as the “camper’s bane”, the billy goat is a shape shifter who can assume the figure of beautiful women to lead outdoors men off cliffs to their doom. The best thing to do if you encounter a billy goat in their natural form is to slowly back away, or just lay down and play dead. If you encounter a beautiful woman in the woods, or even in the city, assume it’s a billy goat and exterminate them with extreme prejudice. That will teach those goats to play hard to get.
Park Rangers: Nothing drives these state park rangers more nutty than you being a general disturbance to the peace of the park, and stealing multiple picnic baskets. Once in awhile when I am feeling bored with the same old camping routine, I’ll sweep down from the hills onto unsuspecting families and steal their baskets full of delicious treats. Of course the ranger on duty will give chase, using his knowledge of the surrounding land to his advantage. You have to stay on top of your game to get the better of these chaps, and all is fair in love and war. That means if he’s close to catching you, give him a good spray of bear mace and kick him down the mountain. It may sound pretty childish, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it at least once.Where the fuck am I?
Fires: The best part of a day when hiking is when you make your campfire and sit around drinking hot cocoa and blowing bubbles. There is usually a 50% chance that fires are not allowed at any particular site depending on how dry it is that season or how anal the park rangers are, but I like to think of this rule as more of a “suggestion”. You aren’t really camping unless you make a huge fire, for it raises the spirits after a hard days’ work, and scares away the beasts of the night, like the unicorn and Yeti. A quick word about the Yeti: if you are going to be in Yeti country, please don’t play any wind instruments while at camp. They are attracted to them like giant man-eating moths to an oversized bonfire, and once you have a Yeti problem on your hands, you are pretty much done for. This rule should be reversed if you encounter a golem for they fall asleep when you play flutes and yield 80 gold and 35 experience when slain.
Pack it out: There is an unsaid rule when it comes to camping: pack out whatever you bring in. Any wrappers, garbage, cans of motor oil, and even feces needs to be packed out in order to keep the parks pristine and the local wildlife healthy. When you enter a protected habitat like Glacier National Park, the areas you visit should look unchanged after your visit. Even taking a rock with you, or leaving a pile of old tires is considered illegal, so the rangers recommend that you encase yourself in a protected bubble and make sure you don’t roll over any insects or flowers ($50 fine). Of course I usually forget to follow these rules and the rangers catch up to me after following my trail of discarded beer cans and Nerd boxes.
Game Boy Advance: Even nature lovers sometimes can get a little crazy from the solitude of the woods, especially if you are stuck in your tent during a downpour. It’s also very hard to quit cold turkey from the computers and video games that our generation was weaned on. That’s why it’s wise to bring a game boy along for a fix of technology. We even go so far as to network our tents with the link cables for some multi-player action. I know, I’m a terrible fraud, but nothing is better than a Mario Cart championship race at 10,000 feet. After winning with my faithful Toad cart, my howl of victory is shouted from the highest peak, reverberating through the mountain valleys and letting everybody in the Pacific Northwest know that I am the victor and master of the domain.Go you little mushroom bastard!
Ghosts: There is a common misconception that ghosts are only limited to haunted houses or graveyards, but this is not the case. Most mountains are full of ghastly visitors from beyond the grave. They were either lost hikers, victims of the Yeti, or old miners left over from the gold rushes of yore. The ghosts themselves really don’t cause much of a problem, except for meddlesome trickery that can cause great distress to some hikers. They have been known to steal power bars, tie boot laces together, and “slime” sleeping bags with their supernatural ejaculate. Out of all the dangers, they are the most tame, but by far the most annoying. Bring wieners cause I read on the internet the ghosts love wieners.
I hope you all learned a little something because I know I did. Never try to write comedy when you’re running around trying to get ready for a huge expedition and your kitten is biting your feet and peeing inside your computer case. If all goes as planned I should be back in a couple weeks, but in case I don’t come back, I want you all to know that I was the one who stole money out of the SA rainy day fund when went on a Mario Cart/black tar heroin binge. Oh yeah, I also gave all staff members cancer by steadily poisoning their coffee over the last couple years. I regret nothing.
The Remains of Bidet (James Ivory, 1993)
We might find we have more in common than we think if we just stop fighting long enough to combine our bodies into a singular organism.
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