Sunday, January 27, 2008

"The Backpacker with No Name"

Hello all,

Only 38 more days remaining, which seems like an eternity. To pass the time, I have been reading journals of previous AT thru-hikers. I stumbled across a journal of a man, who hiked the AT trail in 1983 (when i was 6 years old!). Since there are no TV's, books, X-Box's, Rock Band, etc... there is a lot of time to think and read the trail registers!

You may wonder what are the trail registers? Well they are your form of entertainment along the trail (like your magazines in the bathroom!). Each shelter has one, and thru-hikers sign there names if they stay there. Also you can post information on trial conditions, or you can be creative and put down stories, comic strip drawings or say hi to fellow thru-hiking friends that maybe arriving later. A thru-hiker usually stops at the shelters, takes a break and reads through the registers.

Well this gentleman, George Steffanos, came up with this ongoing story of the "Backpacker with No Name.", and placed them in the trail registers on his 1983 hike. Since it is the 25th Anniversery of his hike, I would like to share one with you.

"The Backpacker with No Name" by George Steffanos.

The midday sun beat down mercilessly on the Moreland Gap Shelter as I strolled in, leading my faithful mule. Oddly the place was full of emaciated backpackers. They watched with guarded expressions as I dropped my pack and started to prepare my lunch.

A skeletal boy edged timidly over and sat down next to me. Greedy eyes surveyed my Tang and peanut butter crackers. "Want some?" I asked.

"Oh, it is no use, Mister," he said in a curious, flat monotone. "Ramone will be the only one to feast on those crackers."

I reached my hand inside my faded, old serape, fished around in my pockets, and finally pulled out the half-smoked stump of an old cigar. "I don't know who this Ramone is, " I said. "But, nobody is enjoying this roughage but me."

Oh, you mustn't talk like that, Mister!" the boy cried. The other backpackers stared at me, fear and despair haunting their hollow eyes. Those nearest to me stood up and shuffled to the other end of the shelter. I shrugged calmly, pulled my hat brim down a little lower over my eyes, leaned back, and munched a saltine.

"I'll take the rest of those crackers, americano," said a harsh, flat voice from behind me.

I turned slowly, carefully removing the cigar stump from the corner of my mouth to spit out a stray shred of tobacco. Facing me across the shelter was the biggest, ugliest woods rat I have ever seen -- more than eight feet tall, with a huge, round beer belly. I pulled out a match and struck it against the stone of the shelter's foundation. With cool deliberation, I lit my cigar and exhaled a long, slow tendril of smoke.

"I am Ramone," he said, his lips moving a little out of sync with his words. "This is my shelter, and any food that comes into it is mine!"

I gave him my trademark dubious sneer and dropped my cigar butt down on the ground, crushing it slowly out with my boot. I picked up a saltine, calmly spread peanut butter on it, and popped it into my mouth.

"Now you die, filthy americano!" he snarled, a full half-second before his lips began to move. He lunged for his rifle.

"Mphmrmph!" I replied, spitting out cracker crumbs. I flipped the right side of my serape over my right shoulder for faster access to my right hip. He quickly lifted his rifle, but I pumped three quick shots into him before he could fire. A weird, Spanish-sounding music was playing in the background as he slumped to the ground, his eyes filled with horrified amazement.

"Who are you," he groaned.

"A backpacker," I said.

His eyes rolled over and he said no more. I strolled leisurely out into the blistering heat, wondering where the heck those bells and trumpets playing in the background were coming from.

The other backpackers came running from the shelter, laughing and shouting. The boy ran up to me and tugged at the corner of my serape. "Hey, Mister, who are you?" he asked.

I smiled, flipped him a granola bar and headed up the next ridge.


M. Kate said...

I think I hear some dueling banjos and caught a glimpse of a young Bert Reynolds in there somewhere...