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[pct-l] Sentimental gear
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I loved Strider's reference to carrying "sentimental gear." I know just how
he feels. When I finished the AT, I didn't do any backpacking for a long
time. I became very busy struggling to re-integrate and get back to
financial stability, and the whole experience drifted slowly into the past.
My beloved gear, my home for 7 months sat forgotten, deep in some closet.
When I recently went out for a two week backpacking trip in Oregon, all of
the old gear came back out. Egad! The smells that emanated from that old
Clip Flashlight instantly brought back memories of week long, soaked, hikes
through verdant tunnels of green. I looked at my weighty Nalagene bottles,
scarred, and covered with Grateful Dead, and Katahdin stickers, and they went
straight into my pack. What is it about these inanimate objects that
inspires some strange kind of loyalty? Perhaps it is some kind of vestigial
atavism we maintain in our psyches, causing unintended reversion back to a
time when objects really were worshiped in earnest, as in totems, objects
that were imbued with magic. I guess we still have such things in our
religions today. Maybe things aren't so diffent? It can't simply be that
this sentimental gear is carried because it really DOES work better, because,
realistically, you can always buy new, lighter, and more innovative gear that
works just as well, and often better than the sentimental gear. I'm just
thinking out loud here.
Anyway, on a similar subject, I wonder, with the pervasive craze on this list
for the ultralight, if there is any room for the additional weight of
sentimental non "gear" objects. I carried a couple of strange things with me
on the Appalachian Trail, which must reveal something about me, though I
can't tell what. First item: my father packed and sent me one of my resupply
boxes while I hiked in North Carolina. Somewhere around that time, when I
was dumping a plastic bag full of Lipton noodles into the boiling water, a
small, plastic aardvark plopped into my soup. My dad's idea of a joke. He
had stashed it in the bag in hopes that it would surprise and annoy me.
Oddly enough, our family has a history of hiding these strange little objects
in each other's homes and luggage for a laugh. For some sentimental reason,
I wound up carrying the aardvark it all the way to Katahdin. Along the way,
a fellow hiker fashioned a hemp "leash" for the figure, which then hung
outside my pack. I still have it hanging in my apartment! Also, I found a
strange, wooden, tiki idol in a thrift store in Damascus during Trail Days,
and wound up carrying THAT all the way to Maine. What was I thinking? I
took a great and inexplicable satisfaction though, in carrying and displaying
these items along the way. It was as if carrying that little bit of extra
weight imbued the hike with extra meaning for me.
I crossed paths with this one couple several times along the AT who called
themselves "Calvin and Hobbes." They carried with them a little Hobbes Tiger
stuffed animal. Most of their trail register writing featured additional
entries composed in the persona of Hobbes the Tiger. For example, "Hi! I'm
Hobbes the Tiger, and after all this hiking I'm really hungry for some Tiger
snacks!". At one point in the White Mountains, they discovered that Hobbes
was missing. They both hiked something like 10 miles back south over some
major mountains in order to find the stuffed tiger, which they eventually
located, dirty, wet (and really hungry), but safe on the side of the trail
somewhere. Personally, I thought they were insane, but who am I to talk?
I'd be interested in hearing about other strange items people have carried
with them on their long distance trips along the PCT.
Nick "Hidalgo the Infidel" Simon