Monday, September 20, 2010

Ken vs. Nature

I’m not going to lie to you; I’ve done some pretty manly things in my lifetime. I waxed my neck once. Leg wrestled a girl in college to see who was going to pay for our date to see Disney’s Aladdin. I’ve even been disco roller-skating not once, not twice, but thrice! So yeah, I’m kind of burly. But nothing – nothing – tested my masculinity as much as the 50-miler backpacking trip I took this August in the Uinta Mountains, located in eastern Utah.

Yes, you read that correctly. I did it in August, and I’m only now writing about it. Because it was only this afternoon that I finally caught my breath and could sit up and type.

(Whew, I’m back now. Sorry. I had to lie down on the floor for about 20 minutes there. I’m okay now. I’ll keep typing.)

Anyhoot, this test of brawn came about due to my working with a bunch of 14 to 18 year old Boy Scouts. Initially, they were as excited about this trip as I was. (Read: Not excited. Fact is, I would have rather waxed my neck again. And I don’t think I have to tell you how unpleasant that was. Well, if you’re a dude, then I might. B’cuz chances are you aren’t man enough to have done that.) But as the day drew closer, we were all getting legitimately excited about this excursion.

There were six Scouts and three adult leaders. Our goal was to ascend King’s Peak. At almost 14,000 feet in elevation, it is the highest point in the entire state of Utah. Our goal was also to learn and master essential survival skills, discover and develop noble character traits, create bonds of friendship, and test our tolerance for, uhm, “making in the bushes.”

And along the way to the peak, I received an unexpected education on some other matters of adventurous living as well. For example...

  1. When somebody says, “It’s only three more miles, as the crow flies,” this means it could be 18 more miles, as you are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a crow. 
  2. The more somebody says, "As the crow flies," the more you want to punch them in the throat.   
  3. When somebody younger than thirty asks you, “What’s our elevation?” and you answer by singing, “We're on the top of the world, lookin’ down on creation,” they will have no idea what you are talking about. Karen Carpenter, your legacy is fading.
  4. Slim Jims are manufactured, packaged, and shipped directly from hell; and they taste like feet. And I saw a 14-year-old young man eat 12 in one day and live! (So far.)
  5. After seven days in the mountains, you will not be able to remember your previous life; like beds, indoor plumbing, and clean clothes.
  6. If one of the Scouts approaches you, unnerved, with tales of spotting an animal near the lake, the likes of which he has never seen…and the description of the animal sounds like nothing you have ever seen either…and the two of you begin to tell tales to each other of a crypto-zoological nature, in the vein of Bigfoot and the like…and you get kind of creeped out and you feel a long way from home and the comforts of a dependable world…just take a deep breath and relax It’s only a badger.
  7. When you are on Day #6 of your trip, with 4 days left to go, and there is a toilet paper crisis, people become very, very selfish. Also, everything from first-aid kit gauze to clothing begins to look like a whole-lot like toilet paper.
  8. If you stand in front of a campfire for 10 days, the smell will never completely be washed out of your clothes. Even after several washings. (This was actually more of Katie’s education than mine.)
  9. Fish can actually yell at you. It sounds hilarious.
  10. When you are away from civilization and all of the world’s distractions, you will witness selfless acts of courage that will stir your faith in the youth of this world. 
And just when I was pretty confident I couldn’t get any manlier, I grew this here beard. I know! (My kids were pretty fascinated by it as well.) And you might be interested to know that I did not wax my beard off. Nope. I used an old-fashioned razor. After hiking the Uintas for 10 days, I really don’t have anything manly left to prove.