Friday, January 10, 2014

153. More Miles Than Degrees Club

I rolled over in my sleeping bag, almost completely blind to the world outside. I wiggled around a little bit to dislodge my arms, and crept my fingertips up toward my face to try and find the tiny opening. I had sinched the head space of the sleeping bag down to the most minuscule size possible, in order to minimize the flow of freezing cold air. This is something I would often do when it was really cold. The downside was that if I didn't keep my nose and mouth perfectly aligned with the itty bitty oxygen hole, then I would start to slowly suffocate inside my bag. But I'd be warm! So there was that.

My fingers scrabbled blindly around inside the pitch-dark prison of the sleeping bag. I finally found the opening, and slowly started to pull on it, in order to widen my window to the outside world. The first thing I noticed was that the material all around the opening of my sleeping bag was crunchy, coated in a fine layer of ice. The second thing I noticed was that the sun had started to rise. Low-angled, cold winter sunlight was starting to give shadows and definition to the other bundles around me, giving shape to the other huddled hikers.

I pulled on the string until the opening was just wide enough for both of my eyes. I heard the soft sounds of hikers gathering their things and packing up around me. I wasn't ready yet to venture out of my cocoon, so I stared up at the ceiling of the wooden lean-to of Sassafras Gap Shelter, and listened to the quiet conversations of my fellows. We had only been on the trail for 2 weeks at this point, so most of the voices I heard were strangers, people I had only started to know, and people I wouldn't ever see again. As is the nature of the trail, and the flux of hiking speed.

"Oh my god, it's so cold."

"Look at all the snow!"

"It would look more beautiful if I was inside looking out at it."

"What's the temperature? Does anyone have a thermometer?"

"Yeah, I do, hold on, it's on my backpack. Here it is, it's.... yikes."

"What? What is it?"


"Seven what? Seven DEGREES?"

"Yes. Seven degrees Fahrenheit."


After listening to this, I snuggled down even more staunchly into the warm cave of my sleeping bag, turning my head away from the opening to plunge myself back into the comforting darkness. It was my kingdom, my safe space, my stinky wonderland. And no one was going to stop me from staying in it FOREVER.

"Clever Girl, we should get moving."

I pulled my buff up and over my face and sighed. I knew I was going to have to get up, and I knew I'd be motivated as soon I was outside of the bag. I was going to try and think of a metaphor to describe what it's like to be inside somewhere very warm and be forced to go out somewhere very cold, ALL DAY LONG. But I don't think it needs a metaphor. It exists perfectly well all on its own.

I was able to get up, pack up, and stuff a frozen block of Pop-Tarts into my mouth. I don't know why I remember those Pop Tarts specifically that day, but they were raspberry. With the taste of tangy, chemical berries on my tongue, Dumptruck, Apollo and I headed out and up on our way.

We hiked 15.2 miles that day. It was only 7 degrees outside. My brother-in-law said that this is known as the "More Miles Than Degrees Club," or, as I like to call it more affectionately, "Why We Outdoor Enthusiasts are the Dumbest."

You earn membership in this completely made-up not-at-all-real-but-kinda-cool-anyway club if you run, hike or walk outside for more miles than there are degrees Fahrenheit. If it's negative degrees, then you have to hike backwards while eating a jar of nutella and singing the National Anthem. I'm not sure how many other times on trail we reiterated our membership to this club, but it was probably several times. I didn't even get hypothermia that first day, but probably because it was a clear crisp day rather than, say, a blizzard.

Dumptruck says that he really regrets not taking a photograph of the ice that had formed around the mouth of my sleeping bag that day, the only part of me visible being my icy red nose. He has since made up for missing that moment by taking a photograph of me from earlier this week, when I went running in the morning for a distance and in a temperature that very firmly put me back in the more-miles-than-degrees club. Toward the end of my run, when the icicles were obscuring my vision, I knew he'd probably want to capture it. So when I made it home, my butt a solid block of ice, I knocked on our own door and hollered in that he should bring his camera down. So he did.

Clever Girl

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