Hiking the Chattooga – sort of

A couple of weeks ago Brother J sent me an email asking me if I’d like to go on a weekend hiking trip with him along the Chattooga River.  His plan was for us to hike 40 miles over the course of three days carrying about 30 lbs of weight each in our backpacks.  Brother J just finished a half-Ironman about a month ago and is in excellent shape.  I am not.  He runs about 25 miles a week.  I do not.  See where this is going?

However, I did what I almost always do when Brother J asks me if I want to do something. I said yes.  Mainly because 9 times out of 10 whatever crazy idea he manages to scheme up is usually fun or at the very least memorable.  Like the time he called me on my 21st birthday and told me to be ready in an hour because he was coming to pick me up and he took me skydiving.  I may have spent a nervous hour in the bathroom at the skydiving center while everything I’d eaten the night before vacated my system, but by golly, it’s a memory I will never forget.

Speaking of pooping, this symptom seems to run in our family.  If we are nervous, there had better be a bathroom near by or you will wish like hell you were not stuck on a two hour car ride to South Carolina with us.  This is what happened Friday morning as mom was driving us to the trailhead.  First Brother J had to go to the bathroom.  One hour later I had to go.  Even J’s dog, Henry, started to fart the closer we got to our drop-off point.  After what should have been a two hour car ride that turned into three, mom dropped us off and we started our weekend hike in excellent spirits.  I haven’t been on a long hiking trip since high school, but I felt good and the weather was perfect.

We decided to stop at mile 6 and eat lunch, and this is where my body began to physically unravel.  The second we got up to put our packs back on and continue on our way, everything started to hurt.  By mile 10, I started to do what Brother J affectionately coined “the two-step shuffle.” At this point, he also informed me we only had two miles to go! It took me almost two hours to finish those last two miles and I literally collapsed when we got to the camp-site, as J ran around exploring the surrounding area as if we had only been hiking for 15 minutes instead of 6 hours.  I could have taken my knife and committed hara-kiri on the spot.  Instead, I laid down by a rock and utterly collapsed.

When I managed to get up again, J had a roaring fire going (that he made without lighter fluid because he is a freak) and we ate one of the most amazing meals I have ever had: freeze-dried lasagna and a mini-bottle of wine.  We got in our tent at 7:00 p.m. and J proceeded to pass out in exactly one minute flat, no doubt helped by the flask of whiskey he finished off during dinner.  I, on the other hand, stayed up agonizing about how to inform J in the morning that I was not going to be able to finish the trip, and because my feet, my knees, and my shoulder were throbbing, and because I am old, people.  In the middle of the night, I woke up and looked up into an incredibly starry-filled sky and this star started to glow like an enormous bubble and I thought “That’s really beautiful.  I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.”

One of our many family motto’s growing up was “you never say I can’t, you only say I won’t.” By 7:00 a.m. the next day, I was more than prepared to say, not only can I not, but I won’t, by god. I waited for J to wake up and immediately told him we needed to start thinking of a contingency plan to get me the hell out of there.  Something in my left foot had started to ooze in the middle of the night and I was honestly afraid to take off my sock. No way in hell was I going to make it another 28 miles.  Being the best brother that ever lived, he didn’t even act upset that I had ruined his trip.  He got out the map and we figured out the best way to get off the trail and head back towards civilization. The only problem was we had no phone signal and our dad was planning on picking us the next day.  We decided to deal with the issue of getting off the trail first and tackle the dad issue later.  We also had another amazing freeze-dried meal of raspberry chocolate cheesecake.  I am not exaggerating.  I’m seriously contemplating just buying a shitload of these things and eating them for the rest of my life.

We packed up our gear and started to hike again, and about two miles in the two-step shuffle started and I slipped and fell.  Brother J literally picked me up in the air by my backpack and set me on the ground again.  I will never forget that.  Being hoisted in the air by my little brother and thinking “damn, I’m skinny.”

At mile 5, we found an outlet to a highway and started walking down the road trying to find a phone signal.  Brother J suggested I stick out my thumb and try to flag us down a ride since I’m a girl and would have a better chance.  Yeah, right.  Have you seen me? I haven’t seen me in 24 hours and I know no one in their right mind is going to find me remotely attractive at this moment in time.  I can smell my own crotch and my boogers were black this morning for Christ’s sake.  But, I did as I was told and hallelujah! the first car pulled over and the nicest family I have ever been overjoyed to be wedged in between picked us up and drove us into a town called Walhalla.  Holla now!

We called our dad, who was less than pleased to have his plans interrupted and be picking us up a day early because his daughter is a sissy who needs to toughen up, and sat down in a parking lot to wait it out.  This was my favorite part of the trip.  We picked a grassy area of the parking lot, unloaded our bags and I started to tell Brother J how the only thing I wanted was a BIG frosty beer, but I had no doubt that in a town where there was a church on every corner that we wouldn’t find one.  He scoffed at me.

Brother J: Give me your phone.

Me: What do you think you’re going to do?

J: Just give it to me. I’m going to call that Main Street pizza place and prove you wrong.

J on the phone with the pizza place: Hi, I’m going to be in your town this afternoon and I was wondering if you serve alcohol?

Pizza place: Have you noticed that there’s a church on every corner, sir?

At this point we started laughing uncontrollably, realized what drunks our family are, poored the rest of my mini-bottles of wine into a Smart bottle of water and got blizted. This is life.  In a parking lot, drinking wine out of a water bottle (Holla, Jesus!) talking shit with my bro.

Back at home, we learned mom had been crying uncontrollably all weekend, worried about us.  This isn’t surprizing, considering that the night before our trip she had been regaling me with stories about people who had been murdered in the woods.  This is what it’s like to have a Hispanic mom:

Mom: Don’t you remember that poor girl who was hiking in the woods with her dog and got killed by that loco?

Me: Yes, mom.  But, I’ll be with J.

Mom: You two think you are invincible. If you die, I’ll kill myself. I can’t wait till you have children so I can laugh at you when they do stupid things.

Me: We won’t die, mom. And I’m finding your parenting skills highly questionable at the moment.

Mom: Your brother just sent me an email asking me if I knew I was the greatest mom in the world.  How do you spell B-O-O-L–S-H-E-E-T?

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