Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer Camp for Grown Ups

I had a series of thoughts leading up to the moment when I mooned an audience of several hundred people. This is how my thoughts went:

I shouldn't moon everyone.

I should.

I shouldn't.

Oh, well. I just did.

I was in the middle of doing an interpretive dance for the Hiker Talent Show, and I had to focus on getting all of my movements down in time with the song. My decision regarding whether or not to end my dance on a bum-related note fluctuated with the laughter of the audience. I had been nervous about performing, because I wasn't sure if my dance was the right thing to do. I knew that it would be fine if it was just all hikers, but there were also a lot of town folk there (much older and much younger) and police. I was able to do it with the support and encouragement of Miss Apple Butter, Hotdog, Dumptruck and Apollo.

The song I was dancing to was Katy Perry's "Firework," and the dance is already borderline inappropriate. Several years ago I co-choreographed this dance with my regular-life friend Jessica (Combustible Marzipan), and we have performed it in many contexts. However, each time we've performed it, it's been in front of close friends. I've never done it on a stage in front of hundreds of hikers and Southern locals who had settled down to eat their corn dogs, enjoy the festival delights, and maybe watch some stinky hikers play guitar or sing on the stage in the middle of the carnival. They probably weren't expecting to see a girl flail around to made-up fake sign-language to a pop song. In the song, Miss Perry says the word "moon" several times. On the last instance of this, I decided that I just had to COMMIT.

And this it was that during the hiker talent show at Trail Days (a gigantic festival that draws a few tens of thousands of hikers and other people every year), I stood on a state and showed the world at large: my butt.

I won the talent show.

Trail Days is very hard to describe. Damascus is a small town that we already hiked through a few weeks ago, and each year, the entire town is devoted to a huge hiker hippie fest. They let a few several thousand hikers set up their tents in the woods just on the edge of town, have a whole bunch of hiking gear vendors (for tents, backpacks, etc) and events all weekend long. A lot of current thru-hikers find a way to hitch hike down to Damascus, so we were able to reconnect with a lot of hikers that we had seen earlier in the trail that we haven't been able to see for a long time (mostly because they are WAY FASTER than us). We also got to meet a lot of current hikers who started after us and who are behind us on the trail.

The atmosphere of Damascus was a little like if you gave 10,000 8-year-olds 50,000 pixie sticks. Everyone had the energy of the Energizer Bunny on methamphetamine. It was infectious, and my eyes started watering once or twice because I forgot to blink. There were bonfires each night, and blue grass music, and mud all over my feet from all of the dancing. On Thursday night Dumptruck and I went to bed around 1am, but we were camped right next to a bonfire with approximately 60 people still hanging out around it. You might think that would make it hard to sleep, but to the contrary, there were so many conversations that the English language became indistinguishable. All of the voices ran together into a beautiful symphony of white noise, and I fell asleep in less than 5 minutes, like a baby in a bassinet on top of a washing machine.

We spent a lot of the weekend gallivanting around the small town that was stuffed to the gills with our stinky kin. Friday, Dumptruck and I set up a little photo studio in the open-air garage bay of a house downtown (we rented the space from the woman who owned the house). Dumptruck then spent all day taking portraits of hikers against a very fancy backdrop of a white table cloth. The photos actually turned out really beautiful - and Dumptruck will use them for something one day. I got to have hikers sign model contracts, and tell everyone that they were looking "Beautiful, gorgeous dahling!" while Dumptruck took their portraits. I felt like a magician's assistant. Except I never got cut in half.

I was able to meet a wonderful, supportive, kind woman named Meg who helped us find the space to set up for our photographs. She also helped us out with renting the space in spite of our protestations, because she is incredibly generous. Meg is an author, and she is currently writing a book called "Wander Women" about ten women who thru-hiked the trail last year. You can find out more about her book here:

There were also standard carnival-type booths in the vendor village, which was delightful. In my opinion, funnel cake is one of the pinnacles of human creation. How can something so light and fluffy be so greasy and disgusting at the same time? How can the powdered sugar stay so powdery and yet so soaked in buttery grossness? How can I get so much of it in my mouth while simultaneously getting so much of it all over my face? These are the questions that cannot be answered, and that is why funnel cake defies the bounds of creativity. It also defies the bounds of my intestines.

I am currently doing something called Hard Core, which is two days of super intense volunteer trail maintenance. We will be cutting new trails for the AT and getting muddy and gross for today and tomorrow. I will save my description of Hard Core for the next post though, because I have become sleepier than a sleeper agent who has been hit in the head, forgotten his mission, and spent all of his spy money on cheetos and beer. You might be wondering when we will be getting back to hiking. Hard Core is over on Monday, and we will be getting back to Daleville on Tuesday morning. Then Northbound again we will be, and we have no more plans for times we will have to get off the trail. Unless of course there is a Dinosaur museum. Then I will be there for days.

Clever Girl

I unfortunately do not have video of my talent show performance (because my iPod was being used by the sound system guy for my music), but Apple Butter did kindly record it! If/when I get it online, I will post it here!


  1. Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah! So awesome to win the Talent Contest! Apple Butter's blog said it came with some good loot...backpack and sleeping bag. Send up our way, unless they're swappable for your current rig. I doubt you'd give up your backpack which is probably like an old friend by now. Anyway...send up anything excess! How many different ways are we proud of you and all Shanty Town? Let us count them: 1) Doing Hard Core and giving back 2) Handling parade tragedy so capably and compassionately 3) Winning Talent Contest (your talent and chutzpah...their encouragement), and 4) Not burning up in a bonfire. We must have left some things out! We love and miss you, Mom and Dad

    1. Thank you!! We have sent the backpack and sleeping bag to you guys. My pack is definitely an old friend now :)

  2. We can't wait to see Dumptruck's photos. Those are going to be awesome! Thru hikers are such amazing people, and if anyone can capture that on film it's our Main Man Mike. I bet you had a blast doing them. Love, Mom and Dad

  3. Yeah! You and Shanty Town rock. You are making your mark on the AT for the 2013 season. WTG on winning the talent show. Looking forward to a video?! ~Margie & Maurice

  4. Firework twice in one week!! That's crazy! I am so proud of you for doing that and I am equally sad that I missed doing it with you. I would have been proud to show my butt alongside yours.

    Combustable M.

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