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Backpacker Magazine – November 2008

I'm Hiking with Stupid - A Buddy Story

The last time our author took his buddy camping, they stopped speaking for a year. A decade later, they still haven't hit the trail together. Which means there's only one thing to do: Try again.

by: Steve Friedman, Illustrations by Ronald Kurniawan


The hike up to the Giant Ledge, which the guidebook said was 1.5 miles, took us two and a half hours. I attribute this to the steepness of the trail, which the book ranked as moderate but I would describe as dangerous; Jeff's complaining about the steepness of the hike; Jeff's asking about 15 times, "How come I have to carry the 80-pound pack?"; my accusing Jeff of lying when he claimed he was an Eagle Scout; our discussions of women, especially our utter befuddlement over the fact that the women in our lives had historically felt perfectly comfortable instructing us "to act like a man, for God's sake," while we felt constrained by societal pressure to refrain from telling any female we knew to "act like a woman"; and our stopping and filtering five gallons of water into the collapsible jug I had carried, since I knew there was no water near any campsites on the Giant Ledge. Also, I took a few minutes to accuse Jeff of being an idiot for buying smoked duck breast and a giant bag of barbecue potato chips for the trip, and he spent a few minutes informing me that I was the one who had gout, not him, and I spent a few minutes asking if he actually owned documentation on his alleged Eagle Scout badge, and he spent a few minutes inquiring as to why I hadn't mentioned that I had been planning all along to make him risk the permanent health of his bad ankle and possibly die, "just like that last trip."

"Jeff," I said, "I swear I didn't know it was going to be this steep. The guidebook said 'moderate.' Besides, there will be great views."

"Right," Jeff said, "You say 'great views' and what I hear is 'death march'."

I reminded Jeff that I'd chosen this hike primarily because it's in Catskills State Park, which is close to the town of Phoenicia, which is the home of Sweet Sue's restaurant, which is famous for its pancakes. Jeff nodded sagely at the mention of nearby pancakes, as men like us are wont to do. Then he reminded me that he'd only agreed to this trip because "you promised it would be different this time." Then he sat down to work over his bag of barbecue potato chips. We arrived at the top of the Giant Ledge at 6 p.m., and after thrashing through the woods cursing each other for not having found a good spot to pitch our tent, and after Jeff reminded me how I had brought only avocados and cheese on the Trip of Doom 12 years earlier and he sure hoped I had planned our meals better this time, and after I asked if he didn't think he might be doing himself a favor by rehabbing his supposedly injured ankle, rather than babying it, we came to a clearing. In it was a fire ring, with wood that previous campers had left and what looked like a flat, grassy plot for the tent and a tree where food might be hung.

Except for the swarms of ravenous black flies, it was ideal. I flung down my pack, reached into the top flap, then exclaimed, "Tell me, Yogi, who's the Eagle Scout now!?!" And I whipped out two black mesh mosquito-netting face-gear contraptions that I, in a fit of prescient genius, had purchased at a fancy camping store.



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READERS COMMENTS

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Dear Canadian-john
Jan 25, 2009

Does anyone else see the irony of Canadian-john's post complaining about the author of the article's lack of writing skills, and then using "than" instead of "then"? What a doooooooooosh.

I don't think the story was award-winning, but reading it was a good way to spend ten minutes.

nick in Cinci, OH
Dec 25, 2008

Great story, thanks. When trips go like clockwork you miss all the fun. It's always good to get out with some people who aren't used to that kind of thing, don't get out often, or don't get along perfectly with you. The backcountry is the best place for making friends.

C'mon John, did you study lit at Oxford to move back to Canada and tell people their modern, casual articles should be made tedious for the reader to show off their "literary and writing" (look up literary, check for redundancy) skills? Anyways he's been published in the Times and the Post, John, he doesn't care about your comment.

And, Wiki says a soft or hard "G", but the Mongolian sound clip sounds more like a "ch" or a "dg" like in "edge". Regardless, he only spoke Mongolian, maybe Turkic. Different language and different sounds than ours, probably no writing or letters at all...

Honora
Dec 19, 2008

It's Genghis with a soft G.

Canadian-john
Dec 13, 2008

I must say, it quite clear why this writer hasn't won a Pulitzer. A great story with some deep thought and sentiment was ruined by a lack of literary and writing skills. Although this may seem profoundly rude to comment about, I feel as if the readers of backpacker deserve a little more talent behind the pages of their magazine/website. If this article is a fan submission, than I am sorry.

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