From Wapack With Love

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Nobody Hikes in L.A.’s debut, I decided to revisit my hiking roots. This is an essay I wrote in 8th grade about a 1988 backpacking trip on the Wapack Trail in New Hampshire. Other than some spelling and punctuation corrections, I have made no edits. Enjoy!

Wildwood Nature Camp at Otter Lake is a camp I’ve been going to for three years. This year featured one of the most exciting and challenging things I’ve ever done: a ten mile backpacking trip.

About half way through the camp season are the Seton Treks (named for Ernest Seton, or as Wildwood campers call him, Eaton Seton) – two and a half day camping trips. There are eight Seton Treks, each with a different theme.

This year I wound up on the Wapack Trek, one of the most rugged. There were other hiking treks, but none as long or high as this. And this wasn’t only hiking, it was backpacking.

Only five kids wound up on this trek: Joey and Scott, two of my best friends, and Derek and Carl, two of my other friends. This promised to be great. Rob and Heather were the counselors.

It started on Monday, August 8th at the foot of Temple Mountain. Larry, the camp director, drove us to the place where our trek would start. We had all packed our backpacks before, and just for kicks, we had weighed them.

Rob’s pack, the heaviest, weighed forty-four pounds. Scott’s, the lightest, weight twenty-one. Mine weighed thirty-one.

“Look rugged!” Larry said as he took a group picture of us. “I’m making a Before and After picture set of each trek,” he explained. He filled up all of our water bottles, and then we were on our own. “Bye!” he said as he drove off.

A lunch break, a rest break and about half a million water breaks were taken on the way to Temple’s summit. All of us had held up reasonably well during the hike.

The views on top were great. You could see about forty miles in each direction. South Pack’s shape loomed up toward the north, and we knew we would be there tomorrow.

“Dinner time,” Rob yelled. He started to dump some soup fixings into the bucket, and then added water and started to heat it. All of us except for Scott came over.

Scott came over soon after, but he didn’t see the soup pot.

Rob wasn’t exactly thrilled, but he controlled himself. “All right, Scott,” he said calmly, “lick it up!”

All of us gathered around to watch Scott. He did it willingly and said it didn’t taste so bad. He tried to coax us to try some, but he didn’t score.

Later that night, Rob told us to take everything into our tents so that animals wouldn’t get them. “Scott, you take the Fig Newtons,” he said.

Scott put on a very fake look of obedience. “Are you sure you want ME to take the Newtons?” he said in an exaggerated voice.

“Yeah, take them!”

The next morning, Rob came outside his tent. “Who ate the Fig Newtons?”

“Carl!” said Scott.

“Scott!” All the rest of us said.

By popular demand, Scott was nailed with the crime. “No Fig Newtons for you during lunch,” Rob said.

We took off that morning, down the Temple ski-lift. At the bottom, we got our reward: Diet Pepsi.

Diet Pepsi at nature camp! That’s something you don’t see every day. But there was a soda-vending machine down in a small building near the foot of the ski-lift.

So all of us savored the twelve magical ounces of that dark brown, fizzy liquid, the treasure that was Diet Pepsi. And then, we were off.

Right across the highway, South Pack lived. We started up on the trail, all of us doing reasonably well. But as the hike lingered on, things got a little bit tiring.

Joey, who was taking up the rear, was walking at a very slow pace. “How are you holding up, Joey?” asked Rob.

At that moment, Joey decided to collapse.

It took a while to get him up, but he had gotten all the rest he needed. “Who says we have a water break?” he said.

Five to two, in favor of the break. Reluctantly, both counselors agreed.

So that got us to the top of South Pack. We had lunch up there, and Rob looked into the Fig Newton basket. “Oh, how thoughtful of Scott to leave two left over,” he said.

I looked over at North Pack, where we would end our day’s hike. I was already tired enough, and a hike over the ridge wasn’t exactly what I really wanted.

But the views were terrific. We could see North Pack and a lot of other mountains in the distance. And it may have been tiring, brutal, vigorous and aggressive, but it was fun.

“Look at this!” said Scott. Derek was over at the picnic table with him. “I bet that other Seton Trek group carved this stuff into the table last night.”

That’s right. Another Seton Trek was on South Pack last night, and this is what we read:

“Peace, brothers!”

“Danielle wuz here”

“Led Zeppelin”

“Derek is Dumb”

“Derek is dumb,” I said, reading the carvings. “I agree with that one hundred and fifty-nine percent.” Both of us laughed.

“Okay, let’s go.” That was the call that got us going down the ridge toward North Pack, endlessly far away in the distance.

It felt as if my backpack weighed thirty-one hundred pounds, instead of thirty-one. And the climb up the cliff trails to North Pack’s summit just about did me in.

Unfortunately, when I got to the top, I couldn’t really appreciate the view. I dug my sleeping bag out, and then collapsed.

Most of us did the same, and it was about two hours later when we got up for dinner. Rob managed to knock the stew pot over again. “Lick it up!” Scott said.

All of us watched, waiting to see what would happen next.

“I made you do it, so I guess it’s only fair that I do it, too,” he finally said, resignedly. And then he got down on all fours, and I won’t go into detail.

I looked back on South Pack Mountain, and smiled with satisfaction. It was well worth it: the views from here were the best ever, and it was COLD!

That’s right, cold, in a summer like this! The mercury dipped to 47 degrees (Fahrenheit, not centigrade) that night. The entire mountain was covered by a cloud.

Joey and I tried to sleep out under the stars, but it was too cold.

I woke up that morning and watched the sun rise.

Then I let my mind drift downstream. Just two months ago at this exact time, I was slaving away over the homework assigned by Mrs. Splendore, the English teacher back at school. And in another month, I’d be slaving away over more homework (which is what I’m doing right now.) Sad, isn’t it?

“Chocolate granola time!” Heather shouted, banging her dishes to get attention. She had promised it yesterday. She was using the left over cocoa to mix it with granola. “I eat it all the time at home,” she explained.

It took her about five minutes to make it. Then, she tossed a pot of it on the ground and said, “Dig in.”

I helped myself to some, and dug in. It wasn’t bad, sort of like chocolate pudding with wheat and stuff.

Later that day, we packed up our stuff, and headed out.

Larry picked us up at the bottom of the mountain, where, as he had promised, he shot our “after” picture. Derek purposely stuck his finger up his nose, while giving Carl rabbit ears with his other hand, but Larry didn’t seem to mind.

Then, we all pile into the car. I laid my thirty-one pound backpack down, and grinned.

Wapack was over for now, but the memories of it will always stay with me, forever. It was great!


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