Where I am not going to be tonight
Of all the years I might just have jumped in the car and headed south encumbered by nothing but a rigid budget (been there, done that, and I'm sure I'll do it again) it makes almost no sense that I'm not halfway to Dogtown right now. Even if I'd given Glen Echo a pass (which wouldn't have been necessary, Dominique said, come and stay! when I saw her again at Flurry) it's always been Dogtown and Floyd (even if Floyd got themselves booted down the road a bit) and up the Parkway to Peaks of Otter the very next day.
Two years ago I made the Peaks of Otter hike on my actual birthday which in itself was a bloody miracle, posting from the top of my very own rock where, in May of 2011 I came to the conclusion that hanging over the edge of a 2,200 foot drop in the middle of nowhere on a solo walkabout was inadvisable at best. It might have been days or even weeks before another hiker found my red pack on the path and made the connection. So. My rock. Not this year. Not this time around and I can't very well do it this time; the bus comes on odd years. 2017 will be the year I missed the bus.
Where I am not going to be tomorrow
Posting from the top of my own personal rock my once upon a time boyfriend left a comment on the Facebook post which read "next year" and I thought, 'how sweet' and 'no, I won't be back next year' and also, 'it's a solo journey, love' and also, 'are you really going to be around that long?' In the end I settled on 'how sweet' and sent him a video later of a small stream of at the foot of Johnson's Farm so he could see what there was to see.
Oddly enough, the hike off that hill was/is the only time I've ever been truly frightened off by myself. The night I spent at the Blair Witch campground in 2011 doesn't count because that was a seriously freaky place and deserted and all that and when I got in the tent the scaries went away but this trek down the hill was super scary for no measurable reason.
About halfway down I started to think about three men, and I don't know why three because quite honestly one guy weighing not more than one sixty could take me but I might hope to outrun him if he wasn't particularly young and I didn't have to cover too much distance but that's not likely. But three men of good size is what got into my head and they were up the hill and behind me so I stopped and turned around and waited a bit to see if they'd catch up to me and you know they didn't because they weren't there. So I turned around and kept going and they stayed right with me. This sucked. I looked at the ground for large rocks and thought, rocks to throw or rocks to keep in my hands for head bashing? I picked up a rock of the head bashing variety and kept going but not before looking back up the hill a while. When I passed through the first open field I stood just inside the tree line on the other side of the clearing and turned myself into a tree. No one came into the clearing. I put the rock down but the hair stayed up on the back of my neck.
When I got to the farm house and the outbuildings I didn't stay like I did the year before and the year before that. I walked right through. I stopped at the small stream to make the video for my once upon a time boyfriend (now, that's love) but then I crossed that bridge into the last open field and hauled ass toward the highway. I turned around one last time at the edge of the field. On the other side there was field between them and me and a small bit of trees between me and the highway and I saw nothing but the remains of the farm.
That, more or less, marked the end of the 2015 April Glen Echo to Floyd to Peaks of Otter walk about. I am fairly certain I stopped being afraid as soon as I got in the car. Sort of like I stopped being afraid as soon as I got in the tent except the car is significantly more tangible in terms of actual safety.
The thing is, I was never in danger. I'd be willing to bet just about anything on that. I generally don't jump at shadows either unless I've been triggered and my triggers are not in the woods. My triggers are in the living room after dark and they involve noise near the front door. That shit will send me through the roof. The woods? The woods are safe no matter how deep and dark. I grew up in the deep and dark. The woods are safe and this was my third cycle through this loop before tourist season when not even the visitor center was open. It was something else having nothing to do directly with men. Sometimes we just don't feel safe and we take the scariest thing we know and apply it to that feeling to give it some sort of structure or substance. I must have had one hell of a scare on that hill because whatever bubbled up brought my most terrible monsters with it. Funny what goes on in our heads when we're not looking.
And suddenly that is what is most vivid for me, fear at the end of the trip and it shouldn't be because it was a kickass weekend but fear is what's talking to me now apparently. Different sort of fear, but when it comes down to it, fear is fear. It's a visceral sort of thing.
Why I am in Connecticut
It's not like I was intentionally huffing the stuff although I might have left the sleep sack outside just A LITTLE BIT LONGER. And maybe rubber gloves during the application process given the sheer number of shorts and shirts which were saturated with this shit might have been a good idea given that each item had to be turned once and then moved to a drying rack (back of chair). Yes, that's the screened porch.
I have packed up three children or let them pack themselves with a list and sometimes only a suggestion and the limitation of a small duffle and shipped them off for a week or two or three or in Elizabeth's case I think a total of five because she was shipped from one location to the next and finally a third before she came home. She did have the benefit of doing laundry but she was limited to a duffle LL Bean likes to call a weekender but we refer to as 'all you need for a week and possibly more depending on the season'. Elizabeth did go to Y camp with a trunk which I found alarming but in the end what went into the trunk really could have been cut down and stuffed into the sort of green canvas army surplus duffle I took to Girl Scout camp but Y camps have started hoteling (ok, it's not really a hotel BUT THEY HAVE SHOWERS IN THE CABIN) their campers and between the number of sheets, towels, and blankets required in addition to the sleeping bag and pillow it's sort of like moving them into a dorm. That was our one diversion from the routine packing requirements.
When we sent Mike off to Outward Bound for three weeks I really think he had something like three pairs of shorts (maybe 2?), four shirts (maybe 3?), a pair of long pants, a sweatshirt, something waterproof, hiking boots, a couple of pairs of wool socks, underwear (?), a sleeping bag, a very small quick dry towel, a hat, sunblock, a toothbrush (maybe we gave him toothpaste?) a headlamp, deet, and whatever implements of destruction were required to keep his food off the ground.
When we sent Lucia off to Outward Bound for the Not So Brave (I don't actually recall what it was but it wasn't Outward Bound and it was only for nine days and it was exactly right for Lucia) we packed pretty much the same things. I don't recall giving either of them soap.
Elizabeth did participate in her packing. Sort of. The list was very specific and B3 provided five white T-shirts for the five days they'll spend at the worksite. This alarmed me. I've seen the videos. THEY DON'T GET THAT DIRTY. I'm thinking you should be rolling in cement before you change your work shirt. I think you should be rolling in something else before you change your shorts. OK, maybe you're not going to wear the same thing for an entire five days (I might and somebody might throw me in a body of water) but I understand they're changing them every day. OK. Five shirts, five shorts. Next. What to put on afterward. Fresh everything and not just five because she's got two extra days and eight if you count today after fifteen hours of travel (I may or may not get to explaining that). In the end we agreed on three shorts and six shirts and seven socks and more underwear than you can imagine because I don't want to think about how often she's going to be required to change it.
I have already discussed the ziplock bags. What hadn't quite hit home was the sheer quantity of ziplock bags of multiple sizes. Did you know there are 2.5 gallon bags? I knew there were 11 gallon bags but until yesterday I'd missed that middle size entirely.
- 5 work outfits each in their own bag containing shirt, shorts, undies, socks
- 2 additional B3 outfits which are like work outfits but not (contain same as above)
- 1 bag with shorts (3)
- 1 bag with shirts (3)
- 1 bag with more shirts (3)
- 1 bag with more underwear than god (no idea)
- 1 bag with an appalling number of spare socks (7 is appalling if there are already 7 which I was just getting used to anyway)
- 1 bag with a dress and sweater
- 1 bag with bathing suits
- 1 bag with sunblock and aloe - A LOT OF SUNBLOCK AND ALOE
- 1 bag with an alarming amount of deet and hand sanitizer (somehow those things seem to go together)
- 1 bag of biodegradable soap products for washing different parts of the body, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant for keeping it stink free
- 1 bag of work gloves and a headlamp and something I've forgotten now and spare batteries
- 1 bag with a sleep sack AND A FITTED SHEET (it's a bigger bag)
- 1 bag of sports bras and regular bras (HOW MANY DO YOU REALLY NEED)
- 1 bag with a beach towel, a LARGE quick dry towel and a small quick dry town (I guess that's for your hair)
- 1 bag with a rain coat, antibacterial body wipes, bandanas, and sweats
- 1 bag with probiotics, B12 (for bugs?), contact lens solution (spare), extra case, toilet paper
- 1 bag of individual packets of pedialyte
- 1 bag of multiple sizes of extra ziplock bags (YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP)
and everything is labeled. EVERYTHING. No. Wait. Monogramed. Everything is monogramed with her initials with a sharpie because that's how she wanted it.
That's 25 bags. When I loaded the bags into the large duffle, which is the duffle LL Bean thinks is good for a week and I think is good for upwards of a year (we used it for transporting linens, beach towels, bath towels, and cookware for the household to the beach), it looked like the bag held 25 kilos of something very colorful. OK, some of those bags were a lot larger than the gallon size kilos with the air compressed out but most were the gallon bags. I wondered how they were going to get all those kids through security. This is when I decided I needed to work a little harder to destroy the environment or at the very least confuse things further. I got a couple of eleven gallon bags and divided the kilos into work, play, implements of destruction, and stuff you put on and in your body. The eleven gallon bags fit in very neatly with plenty of room left over. I dropped in her boots, her flops and her pretty sandals. I added her floppy hat. I threw in the spare water bottle. The sweatshirt was going on her body.
I zipped up the bag and got on the scale. Thirty-three pounds. How was that possible? I thoroughly expected to have to remove some items and stuff them in her backpack. The American Airlines luggage limit is fifty pounds and we were warned that it was very easy to exceed the limit. What the hell are these kids putting in their luggage?! Flame throwers? Blow torches? Bricks?
In her backpack she has the school supplies for whichever small child will be her friend, a small laptop which has been donated to the village by someone (about fifteen of the twenty-three are computer mules on this trip), her travel pillow (because you'll die without it), her camera (because I pried the phone out of her hands in the parking lot thirty feet from the bus at 12:45 last night), three books (one is for school), travel toilet paper, her passport, actual cash, a travel pack of antibacterial wipes, spare lenses, case full of fluid, glasses, sun glasses (2), water bottle (insulated and empty), and a smallish box holding what appeared to be one love letter to be opened each day from her boyfriend.
I didn't get to spend the time I would have liked with her in the last two days. On Thursday night she was locked in her room finishing homework and on Friday night she was with her boyfriend down the hall and boy do I understand that. In the hour between his leaving and our leaving I got her attention for all of fifteen minutes to review the packing and handle the backpack before she went back to her room to finish the playlist on an actual iPod so she'll have music. During the thirty minute drive to the B3 office she frantically sent out the last of her messages and created a photo montage for a friend who's birthday will be missed. When we pulled into the lot I realized we were on the later side of arriving, not early as I'd expected and there wouldn't be any time at all.
I wished I'd written her a letter and tucked it into one of her twenty-five bags. I wished I'd thought the way her boyfriend had or the way she thought about her friends. I thought about crying. I wished I had more time with her. I wished for even sixty seconds but I didn't even have that because instead of going into the building to weigh her bag, one of the advisors took one look at her, smiled and said, 'I think you're good, let's go'. That's when I had to pry the phone out of her hands.
I put the bag over her shoulder and gave her a one armed hug because that's all I could get. Her face, as she was turning away started to break and I said, 'it's OK, you don't need me, go and do good things.'
The advisor. Hard stop.
Yes she does, but it will be OK.
And off they went.
Later when I was driving home I realized the entire bag was a love letter. Not a thing you'd stop to think about so much but something that's just there every day, every moment, every time you reach your hand in to grab something and it's there. Right down to those damn drier sheets.
Do you know that girl honestly asked me if I put the drier sheets in a ziplock bag. Do you blame her? I don't blame her. I kind of wish I'd thought of that.
I'm not in Floyd this year. I'm launching Nicaragua and then I'm catching it on the flip side.
oh. here's why 15 hours.
- 1am departure from Norwalk
- 6am departure from Laguardia
- 11am departure from Miami
- 2pm arrival in Managua (12pm central time - daylight savings)
- 3:15 pm cleared customs (that's when I got the voicemail)
- 4pm estimated arrival at the village (2pm)
that's how you get to 15 hours. I wonder how they fed them. Shut up, Mom, not your problem.