Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oooooooh That Smell


You know how it's been said that if a butterfly flaps it's wings in China that it'll cause a tornado in Texas? (Or something like that--my Google-fu is not strong today)  Well, at this point, I tend to agree, but I'd change it to say that if an airplane breaks down somewhere on the other side of the country it'll eff up my whole week, because that's the absolute truth. 

My new job, working for an airline, has kept me super super busy for the past few weeks, and this morning is my first two-day break in the action since before Christmas.  And even though I'm in sunny Florida with no weather delays, the rest of the country, well, not so much.  Basically, my point is, yeah I'm getting back to writing on a regular basis, but I've felt like I've been living at the airport like Tom Hanks for the past month, and my time at the keyboard has been severely limited.  Plus, the more I think about it, I work about two or three times as many hours a week as I did back in Vegas dealing poker, but I make less than half of the money I used to, so there is obviously a glitch in the Matrix somewhere...

Anyhow, I hope y'all enjoyed my story about my Memorial Day hike in the mountains, because if I had myself a DeLorean with an aftermarket flux capacitor installed, I'd totally go back to that point in time and take a do-over on 2014.

I ain't gonna lie--it's been a tough year.

After busting up my knees on Blood Mountain in April and deciding to come to Florida, things haven't quite worked out the way I've planned.  It took me FOREVER to get a job down here, and yeah, I've got a job that I really like, but the money is about as low as it gets, and I'm just on a contract anyways--I may be out of a job completely in May, or I may be offered a permanent, but part-time position, or I may get another position somewhere else in the country.  I honestly have no idea.

But the desire to complete a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and write a book about it still burns within me, and somehow I've got to make that happen--sooner rather than later.  Jobs and moving and all other real-life issues somehow have to fall into place, and I still can't see the forest of that particular goal due to all of these pressing and unknown trees.  And once I got here to Florida and settled in last May, I put up all of my backpacking gear in the storage unit and have kept it compartmentalized, tucked away and kept secret, like Mel Gibson's footlocker with the combat tomahawk in The Patriot.

So right now, my life is pretty routine--wake up early, drive an hour to the airport, spend all day on my feet working my arse off, drive home, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat...  Most days I feel like a zombie on autopilot (with a mild-to-moderate case of road rage, of course, because these fools in Florida are the worst drivers ever, and I spend entirely too much time behind the wheel of my truck).

Anyhow, yesterday, while I was driving to work, sitting in traffic, I reached up and scratched my chin for no particular reason, and was mildly grossed out because there was a bunch of un-rinsed shaving cream gooing up my beard.  I felt around behind the seat, looking for a napkin or a towel or even an old t-shirt to wipe my face with, but came up empty.  So not only was my face a mess, but my hand was all sticky too.  Not good.

I flipped open the center console, hoping to find something in there I could use to clean myself up before I got to work, and underneath the pile of junk like old pens, stray batteries, a pocketknife, a flashlight, loose change, a year-old cool ranch Dorito, I found a packet of moist towelettes, specifically a travel pack like the one pictured above.

A word about them--they are a PERFECT accessory for camping and backpacking. When you're sweating your you-know-what off and wearing the same stinky synthetic clothes for days on end, one of the few luxuries you are afforded in the woods at the end of a long day is a wet-wipe hooker bath.  I always carried a pack with me in my toiletry kit, and fifteen moist towelettes will last several days on the trail.

But since I've been back in civilization for so long, I'd forgotten about the simple pleasure they afforded--until yesterday with my gooey beard and sticky hand.

And everyone knows what an amazing psychological trigger that scent can be.  Well, I opened up that package to tidy myself up there at the stoplight, and as soon as the smell hit me, I was taken back to a much happier place.

I was lying in my tent at the end of a very hard day, at a place called Lance Creek.  My hiking partner 'Itchy' was a few feet away in her own tent, and we were laughing our asses off while writhing around taking our nekkid wet-wipe hooker baths before changing into 'clean' dry clothes and making dinner.  Such good times and such good memories, even though I was as tired and beat as I'd ever been.  It also reminded me of a freezing cold morning changing clothes and using the facilities in the privy at the Stover Creek shelter a few days before, while a line of hikers waited outside to do the same thing.

I honestly hadn't used one of those wet-wipes since then, and when the smell hit me, it just took me right back to the trail.  Sitting in traffic, swearing at other drivers, spending the day at the airport, all of that disappeared for a few minutes while I wistfully cleaned off my beard and wiped off my hands.  I missed the cold and the misery of Blood Mountain.  I missed the camaraderie of sitting around the firepit with ten or eleven other random hikers at night eating dinner, but having no fire because everyone was just too damn tired to gather wood and start one.  I missed the first drink of cold clear water from a mountain spring after running out a couple hours earlier.  I and really missed how excited I was to crawl into my tent just before sundown and think to myself that I earned every minute of sleep I had planned for the next eleven hours.

It turned out to be a very long day at work yesterday, and as much as I like doing what I do, it was nice to be able to revisit old memories to remind me of what I'd rather be doing.  And yeah, I'm definitely going back at some point.

Wet wipes.

Seriously, inspiration comes from the strangest places. 


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