Long backpacking trips have a way of changing the way you feel about our place in the world, the way you act within it. A 7 day trip is no thru hike, but that doesn’t diminish its ability to effect change.
Frankly, by night 5, you can get a little feral.
You know that the polite thing to do is wait patiently for dinner to be ready to eat. To be comradely with your companion. But the veneer of society wears thin, and the filthy clothes you wear only reinforce your knowledge that you no longer conform to those ideals. They are far way, in time and place.
The banter grows biting.
Well, perhaps nipping is the better word. You are, after all, in the same tribe. You don’t actually want to attack each other; this is just about the competition for food. The desire to assert yourself in the hopes that the other might concede a larger portion once it’s ready to eat.
You do chores to fill the time of the wait. The sleeping pads inflate with too much speed and you have too much time left to wait yet and are now lightheaded to boot. Your stomach doesn’t rumble, it contracts, squeezing tight against nothing in peculiar pain. It’s almost more like an itch than an ouch.
But any sensation taken too far can resemble pain.
Your partner conveniently forgets to tell you that he doesn’t have your spork until after you sit down – and until less than a minute remains in the wait time. And this, after you lovingly made him a Nuun to drink once he got to the top of the saddle.
You’d tell him to get it for you if you thought that would work, but you know it won’t, so you heave your weary bones up and scramble for the spork that you put away in the tent as part of your chores. Just before you sit down, the timer goes off, the signal that whether the food is ready to eat or not, it will be eaten.
A snarl almost escapes your lips as your partner takes the food into his own lap. Instead of snarling, you merely correct the positioning of the hat doubling as a cozy for your freezer bag packed rehydrated chicken and rice. It’s the first time you both have tried this dinner, but it won’t be the last.
Quite possibly, the food’s savor was improved by seasoning of hard work and hunger. But you’ve had bad ones before, and hunger can’t change the flavor that much.
The food, which did appear to be a greater quantity than the two of you could possibly eat, disappeared in a fast exchange of spoonfuls and slurps, leaving you both looking for more.
Not necessarily because you needed more – the food was filling and would be more so as the not-quite-fully-rehydrated rice finished expanding in your stomachs – but because the food was so good. So exactly the hot, salty, chewy experience you wanted in the indeterminable waiting.
But now it’s gone, and the sun, already passed below the nearest ridge, is truly setting. You and your full belly just want to crawl into the tent and sleep, nestled in the warmth of a sleeping bag that smells almost as bad as you do – so it’s a good thing you can’t smell it anymore.