Monday, October 14, 2013

187. Cards

When I was a child, my father told me that the most important thing to carry with you was a deck of cards. Specifically he said that they were essential for anyone who was ever going to go hiking. He told this to me with the sort of gravitas that did not invite questioning, and so I believed it completely. For a long time I didn't bother to ask why cards were so important. I figured it was because they were fun, portable, and maybe possessed some added level of bonus that I wouldn't understand until I was a grown up. Thus it was that I always carried a deck of cards with me in my backpack, my purse or back pocket. Maybe they would be the thing that would save me from death via espionage; a high-stakes poker game where the person who could provide the cards would win the whole thing.

When I was packing for the trail, Dumptruck and I spent what felt like 100 hours or more unpacking and repacking our backpacks. We were trying to get to the lowest weight possible and eliminating any unnecessary items. Everything was stripped to the bare minimum, but we had quite a while to question our choices, which meant that some things were eliminated and then returned and then eliminated again. After much hemming and hawing, I had only 3 things that were ostensibly useless but were important to me:

1. A mockingjay pin from my mom
2. A safety pin with a rainbow of tiny, colorful animal zipper pulls (I ended up giving one of each of these to Grim, Whistle, Otto, Hotdog, Apple Butter, Apollo and of course Dumptruck)
3. My deck of cards

A few days before we left for the trail, Dumptruck and I were sitting on the floor in my parents' dining room in Maine, all of our hiking stuff strewn about us on the floor. Dumptruck reached out over his own moat of various hiker stuff and picked up my cards.

"Do you really need these?" He asked, not accusingly, just curious.

"These are as important as my First Aid Kit!" I exclaimed, reaching over, plucking them out of his hands and clutching them to my chest like an orphaned puppy.

"Fair," said Dumptruck, grinning.

"Besides," I added quietly as I replaced the cards in the pile of other Important Things, "Dad would be so disappointed if I left them behind."

The deck of cards ended up being truly quite useful. There was many a rainy, cold night in which several hikers were crammed into our 3-person tent, all holding cards in our blue fingers and yelling at each other in good cheer. No one ever carried any change to flip a coin, so the cards could solve any simple disputes with a "cut the deck for the highest card." One night they served as a high form of entertainment as Dumptruck taught 5 other somewhat inebriated hikers the physics of how to throw cards like Gambit from X-Men, and being in the motel room was like being inside of a constantly shaking snow globe. I had to buy a new deck of cards after that.

Something that I hadn't intended but ended up being cool was that the deck of cards became my wallet. No one carries wallets on the trail. Most folks will just have a zipoloc bag with their atm card, credit card, drivers license and any loose cash they might have on them. I had the ziploc bag thing for a while, but was afraid of bending or breaking my bank cards with my pack getting thrown around so often. So I slipped my 3 cards (atm, credit and license) into the deck, and they were able to stay nice, snug and safe.

When Mother Trucker and Dump Daddy (Dumptruck's parents) were visiting us, Mother Trucker also pointed out that the card-deck-as-wallet method was great for keeping my important things secret! I never felt like I had to keep things secret from other hikers, but maybe if I travel somewhere crazy in the future and I don't want to get robbed, that could work better than one of those weird wallet things that straps to your torso. Or perhaps when I'm caught up in that espionage scenario I mentioned earlier, I can keep the high-level security secret codes written on the face of the Ace of Spades.

As we were getting onto the train in Boston that would take us down to Georgia to start our trip, my dad gave me a hug and asked,

"Do you have a deck of cards with you?"

"Sure do!" I responded.

"Good," he said, "Then I don't have to worry about you ever getting lost."

Later, as we were sitting on the train, Dumptruck turned to me and looked me right in the eye.

"Alright," he sighed "I give up. Why are the cards so important when you're going into the woods?"

"Well, if you ever get totally lost, and you're all alone, and you have no way to get help, then the only thing that can save you is cards," I answered matter-of-factly.


"Just sit down and start playing Solitaire. Within 5 minutes someone is guaranteed to walk up behind you and tell you where to put the next card. It's the law of the universe."

Clever Girl


  1. "If you move the black king to the open spot you can put the red queen on it, which will let you move the ace up to the top...oh...are you lost?" Brings a tear to a parent's eye when life lessons are remembered... Love, Mom and Dad

  2. I was thinking you could use them like breadcrumbs if you get lost.