Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seguin Again

The senior class hiked to Seguin this past weekend. I (Ben) hiked with them. Some parts of the hike were so tough that I was giving myself a pep talk. "You can do this! You can do this!" I decided to write about the hike in  2nd person, as though it was the voice in my head. It is different, but I hope you like it.
The trucks stopped and you cinched in the straps on your back pack tighter and talked trash to the 5 boys on the basketball team. Encouraging them to keep pace with you, all the while knowing that with their long legs and conditioning from Coach McMahon's sprints they would leave you behind eventually. You wanted them motivated to pound the trail.
Rocks and sand crunched beneath your sneakers as you stared down and made your way up the trail. You passed lottery stands, shacks, and businesses that were standing precariously close to the slope down the mountain. You wondered about what the Haitians must think seeing backpackers walk past seeking adventure while they scratched out a life. Robbie fell in beside you and you two made small talk to pass the time. Occasionally you looked up to take in the panoramic view from the top of the mountain you happened to be on. However, when you stopped with your camera and took pictures, Robbie put more and more distance between you. Eventually you saw him skipping down the trail leading the way like a descendant of Merriwether Lewis. How could a man seven years older than you make you look like such a weak-legged fool?!
You hiked by yourself for an hour. Breathing deeply. Keenly aware that you were only smelling air. Not diesel exhaust, urine, or burning trash. Just pure mountain air. And horse manure.

One of the big ascents was head of you. You sweated and swore under your breath, but you made it up and saw Robbie and the basketball team you had been provoking earlier. Robbie was doctoring blisters and you were thankful: first, that you had caught up to the lead group of hikers, and second, that they were taking a rest. You desperately needed one. But, you fool, at that stop you drank nearly all of your water.

You continued to hike and your legs could not keep up with the 6 foot 3 frame of the forwards and post players. They left you behind. The sun scorched you. The thin mountain air made it easier for the sun to redden your cheeks and nose. As the day wore on you became hotter. You sweated more. You rationed your water. You asked the occasional mountain marchan if they had and dlo. They shook their heads and said, "Pa gen!" You wondered how anyone up here stayed hydrated.

You hiked on. You finished your water. You knew the big ascent was coming. A long and straight and steep and rocky climb to the top of the plateau and the mountain forest. You were not sure how to do it with out water. You prayed for any kind of water, even a little mountain shower.
You began working your way up the ascent called Seven, and just over the first rise was Robbie. Pack off and hands on his hips, grinning. He had found a natural spring in the rocks by the trail. He was waiting to fill everyone's water bottles. He healed blisters and scrounged up water. If he had called down cheeseburgers from heaven, you might have considered him a prophet.

You sat down, shrugged off your pack, and waited for the water to purify. You hung your head and took deep breaths, filling your lungs with fresh mountain air. You checked your watch while Robbie filled up more plastic water bottles, Nalgenes, and canteens. 1:30 in the afternoon. You had been hiking for 3 hours and knew it would take 2 more to ascend the plateau, plus 30 minutes of flat walking in the pine forest to get to the mountain lodge. As you were resting and drinking cold mountain water you noticed the clouds rolling in. Thick, dark mountain clouds. You asked Robbie if he thought it looked like it would rain. Now that you had a full bottle of water, you hated the idea of getting wet. Your wife hiked this in the rain last year and she said it was miserable. Robbie said he thought it would hold off for a few hours.

The rain started before your break was done. Five of you had stopped to rest at Robbie's mountain water fountain. When the rains came you all quickly shrugged on your packs and began walking. The rain was fresh off the Seguin plateau and it was cold. It did not fall hard, but it fell steady. You adjusted the contents of your back to keep your camera and phone dry, wrapping them in the spare pairs of socks you brought. They would be the only things that would stay dry.

Soon you were soaked. Amber had been walking with you, but the rain did not slow her down. It sped her up. When the rain did not stop after 10 minutes, she dug down deep and walked faster than you or anyone else could match, leaving you with three high school boys, a rain storm, and soggy feet. The senior boys behind you complained, but they never stopped walking. You never looked back at them. You never looked ahead at the top of the ascent. You just looked straight down to plan your next steps and encouraged them to do the same. "One step and a time. We are all wet and miserable. The sooner we get there, the sooner we get dry."

It took over two hours in a driving rain storm but you made it to the top of the Seguin plateau. The basketball team and Amber were crowded under a wooden moto stand with nearly a dozen drivers fighting off the cold and the rain. You were not at Seguin, but the hardest parts were behind you.

-B

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