Aiden: A Day in the Life

   The 5:00 AM wake-up call is dad's too-cheerful voice. I roll over and try to push through the fog of a headache and smack June to get her moving. The same thing is happening in the other two tents. Henry,  my dad, and I are universally hated in the mornings.

     Breakfast is a cup of cereal mixed with cold chocolate water; if you're lucky, you might have an extra Poptart too. We eat in our sleeping bags, trying to stay cozy for as long as possible. If there are other hikers nearby, we do our best to argue without waking them up. Needless to say, morning is not considered the favorite time of day. 

   By the time we hit the trail, it's usually past the scheduled departure time, and the next hour consists of dad's continued griping.  By 9:00, we're warmed up enough to start smiling again. Henry and I sing silly songs or tell jokes, while Georgie and June laugh at chipmunks. The next hour increases in speed and cheerfulness, and we take a few breaks to admire the views or eat a snack. 

   At around 10:00, we start to feel the aches and pains of yesterday. My mom's feet continue to hurt, Georgie trips over every single root in her path, and June and my dad stop to massage and stretch their legs. Henry and I often ask for a lunch spot to stop, locate it on the map, and take off for it. We are not likely to see the rest of the family until the designated lunch spot.

   We're all extremely grateful when we do reach lunch at around 12:30. By that time we have usually covered 10-13 miles and are ready for a break.  We sit down by a lake or stream to filter water, take off our shoes, and pull out our foodbags to see what we have. I have been officially fired from boiling the water, so mom or Georgie do the cooking. While we wait the 7 minutes for our rice to cook, we stretch and rub our feet. We add as many calories to our rice as we can, and snack continually (I do anyway). Our lunches last anywhere from an hour to two hours depending on how far we plan to go that day. We use that time to wash our clothes and ourselves as well as eat. 

   After another slow start and more griping, we start out for the afternoon haul. The afternoon is probably by far the most fun part of the day for me. I love the thought that we have already done so many miles and are closing in on bedtime. I am more alert and cheerful in the afternoon, and for some reason the scenery is more beautiful to me. Everybody else seems to hate it. Georgie and June have a daily "cry-thirty" in the afternoon, and everyone is tired and irritable. Amusing yourself is more difficult, so you turn to music and books for distraction. We kids enjoy listening to music from movies and trying to reenact the whole thing in our heads. The afternoon is almost a "quiet time" whose silence is occasionally broken by questions like, "How many more miles?" 

   As it gets closer to 7, we seem to slow down. It's very trying for those who want to go fast enough to beat the sunset. The sun turns orange as it gets lower in the sky, and the light shining on the trees looks like orange spray paint. We hurt and we cry, but we always make it up that last hill.

    When we finally do make it to camp at around 8, we collapse in our tents in exhaustion, eat a peanut butter wrap and go to sleep. The days are long and hard, but there are amazing moments: lunch by a perfect swimming lake, ridge hikes through volcanic rock at sunset, and watching the emotional and spiritual battles inside everyone around me as they fight their way through the day to a well-earned rest. It is an experience that I wouldn't pass up for anything.

Vince StrawbridgeComment