THE THINGS THEY CARRIED
by Tim Martin
(Illustration by Grace Kerr)
You are feeling Whitmanesque, reclining beside your favorite lake after
a long and arduous 20-mile trek and on the verge of a special communion
with nature. You prop up your legs, close your eyes and suddenly, the hills
are alive -- with the sound of music.
But not the good kind. The loud, obnoxious kind with screaming vocals
and car-wreck harmonics, and it's coming from the far side of the lake.
Your first thought is: Who's the creep with the boom box? And your second
is: How did he carry it all the way up here?
For some, a trip into the wilderness serves as both a private refuge
and a reminder of some simpler, primitive era, a chance to get away from
it all. For others, backpacking is a way to both rough it and, at the same
time, not. Some want to enjoy the great outdoors while not having to give
up too many important things in life, like buttered scones, a morning espresso
and the Sunday Times. And what they try to do is take civilization with
- A mother was spotted in the Trinity Alps carrying a baby on her back
and pushing a jogger full of such essentials as a playpen, a beach umbrella
and a car-camping tent.
- A painter with a desire to capture the beauty of the back country was
seen in the Marble Mountains wheezing along under a burden of 30 frames
and a pack full of watercolor paints.
- A teenage boy in Big Basin Redwoods State Park was observed carrying
a bag full of video game cartridges. His father, winded and leg-weary,
was packing a small portable generator, a mini color TV, and two gallons
of gas. (This is a true story.)
- A Yosemite hiker lugged a backpack full of soda pop up the back side
of Half Dome, a 16-mile hike, in order to distribute them to parched climbers
at the top for $3 apiece.
- A man packing enough fire power for a Sylvester Stallone movie was
stopped by a ranger in the Inyo National Forest and informed that, appearances
to the contrary, he was not on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The guns were confiscated.
- Two college kids on a 30-mile hike in the Sierras were spotted packing
watermelon and frozen steaks wrapped in dry ice. When it began to rain,
the hiker carrying the steaks and ice looked as though he was on fire.
- A family of five was spotted in the Eldorado National Forest with inflatable
rafts, lawn chairs, pillows and bed mattresses piled high on their backs,
looking every bit like the Beverly Hillbillies.
- Who says you can't take it with you?
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