D11: Wilderness Funk and Mac and Cheese, Part Deux

Trip Start Jul 07, 2012
Trip End Sep 27, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Sunday, July 29, 2012

The day began with a 6:55 wake up call and a tent take-down. There is nothing quite like the "Sleeping Bag Stuff" and taking a tent down, a veritable obliteration of the previous night's sleeping quarters, to get you wide awake and ready for the day. You can't go back to bed cause, well, it's gone. There's another thing to truly appreciate in the frontcountry: A bed that doesn't require assembly at night.

Breakfast this morning consisted of cornmeal pancakes that Eric made. Through these pancakes, I found the true value of brown sugar, and that you can simply just eat brown sugar with anything if you need a sugar pick-me-up. I poured brown sugar in my bowl, licked the cornmeal pancake to give it some stickiness, dipped it in brown sugar, and presto: Pancakes and syrup. I pondered what it would be like to carry around a bag of brown sugar with me wherever I went when I got back home, just in case it wasn't sugary enough. That would be a sight. Perhaps you've just purchased a cinnamon roll at your local cookie-cutter restaurant, and it turns out to be less scrumptious than a cardboard box. Just break out your handy-dandy bag of brown sugar and lump some right on top. Brown Sugar and Cardboard is bound to be much tastier than Plain Ol' Cardboard. Think about it.

The hike for the day was scheduled to be a bit tough, with about 7 miles over some legitimate elevation gain. While the estimate of distance was accurate, we were wrong about the toughness of the hike. This one ended up being extremely challenging, both mentally and physically. It was a very hot day with little tree cover, the trail wasn't very clear and was constantly forking in different ways, the surrounding features all looked the same on the map, and the group had a lot of trouble connecting. This, along with a startling realization that, holy crap, this trip is 1/3 over and I still have no idea what the hell I want to do with my life, brought about what I like to call a Wilderness Funk. That's my term for a point when I would get so wrapped up in my thoughts and worried about life after the trip that I would clam up and think wayyyyy to hard. When you're out there, it is tough to prevent a Wilderness Funk from sneaking its way into your thought process for some amount of time when you're left by yourself to think while walking in sweltering heat and blazing sun after 6 miles with a 50 pound back on your back, you're hungry, and your thoughts are not specifically directed towards something positive. All you have to do to beat a Wilderness Funk is to remember that "Duh, I'm alive. I am breathing. And today is today, not tomorrow. Live now." But it usually takes an hour or two of a marathon mental wrestling match to re-uncover that truth and get back to thinking about fun things and enjoying the day.

On this day, I re-uncovered that simple truth as we were sitting at our X on a beach near Hidden Creek, resting and basking in the glory of finally being done with the challenging hike. This is where things just got slaphappy (a term we used on the trip which denoted a state of mind in which just about everything is funny because you are tired). The people who were scouting camp came back and said that they couldn't find a suitable camp and kitchen, and that we were going to have to backtrack a half mile and cross a river to get to the last open meadow we saw. I found this quite hilarious. Then, right as we got to the river and were preparing to cross, a downpour with lighting began, meaning we had to crouch in lighting position in the pouring rain for 15 minutes. I now found the whole situation insanely hilarious. Just a comedy of errors in the day.

When we did finally cross the river, it took us about 30 minutes to find suitable camp and kitchen, and what a glorious feeling it was. By 8, I was cooking mac and cheese for the second straight night. It's quick and filling, so why the heck not? It was just as tasty, if not more, than the night before. Then, I had a dessert that would come to be a staple of the next few days: A mix of cocoa, brown sugar, Perkys, powdered milk, and water. Essentially, it makes a Goopy Sugar Rush. That was much needed after the craziness of the day. The comedy of errors continued after a quick break from the stove to hang out and play some frisbee. We waited 45 minutes for a pot of water to boil before abandoning the idea of hot drinks as it was just getting too late. But, I had already poured my apple cider powder into my cup, so I drank cold, potent apple cider instead. It was actually pretty awesome.

As we were walking to our tents, someone, I cannot remember who, implored us all to be quiet immediately. Off in the distance, we could hear wolves howling! Not just one either, but at least a couple adults and children. It was really nifty! Our experience with anything relating to wildlife was quite slim to this point, so it was a great treat to be able to hear something like that. Then, within about 2 seconds of crawling into my sleeping bag, I was fast asleep.  It was a tough day, but it was rewarding in that once again, Wilderness Funk tried to knock me out, and I knocked it out instead. Perhaps that is one of the life lessons to take from this trip, how strong the mind is, both in terms of the ways it finds to try and bring itself down and in the sheer power it has to lift itself up again. The extrapolation of this entire experience into normal life in society is going to be interesting, to say the least.
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