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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

We turned in early on our second night in the wilderness, and we both slept well, and in the morning we packed up, and we left the wood for the lucky campers who would find this campsite next, and we skipped breakfast and hiked down the 1.5 miles to our car, and then we drove to Sweet Sue's, where we each had a plate of blueberry-banana pancakes with real maple syrup, and it was good. It was very, very good. It was the best plate of blueberry-banana pancakes I had ever eaten in my life.

I thought of how lucky we were, and of how I would brag to my friends about how I had hiked with Jeff into the wilderness to repair our already strong, now incredibly strong bond, and how doing so had made even a humble Pop-Tart into something magical. I knew that within hours–if not minutes–I would start worrying about things like deadlines and traffic and why I hadn't yet managed to snare an attractive, big-hearted regulator. But if there's one thing a couple of nights in the backcountry will teach a man (other than the necessity and absolute joy of manning up), it's this: You can regret the past and worry about the future all you want, but there's really only now. Right now. Right now, bug-bitten and slightly damp and tired and smelling of rain and a fire from two nights ago, and sitting with your good friend Yogi at Sweet Sue's, off the Giant Ledge, but still filled with memories of it. Still somehow on the Giant Ledge forever, carrying around a great big chunk of the Giant Ledge for the rest of my days on earth.

"This is living, Yogi," I said to my friend as I swallowed a forkful of blueberry-banana pancakes.

"This is living," my friend replied with great but manfully restrained emotion. Then Yogi looked at me. There was something in his eyes. It was peace, and it wasn't just the peace of the satiated-bear-who-just-ate-at-the-garbage-dump. I was positive about this. It was something more profound. Yogi had also felt the mystery and the magic of the Giant Ledge, and he too was carrying around a big chunk of the Ledge and he would carry it until his dying day and it would not be heavy. It would not be a burden. It would be a blessing. That's what I was seeing in his eyes.

I was so moved that I almost stopped eating my blueberry-banana pancakes.

Writer at large Steve Friedman's third book, The Agony of Victory, will be available in paperback in November. He is still looking for a regulator.

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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...

Dec 19, 2008

It's Genghis with a soft G.

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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