Friday, October 3, 2014

65. Hiker Boxes

If you've read Harry Potter, seen the movies, or at least have the distinct pleasure of being friends with someone who has read all the books or seen the movies, then you may have heard of the Room of Requirement. If you don't know what it is, I will give you a quick description: The Room of Requirement is a magical room on the third floor Hogwarts (the wizarding school. Spoiler alert: Harry Potter is a wizard). The door to the room is completely invisible, unless you walk back and forth in front of a particular blank space of wall, thinking very hard about something you want or need. If you have done all of these things correctly, then a door will appear, behind which will be a room that has exactly what your heart desired. In the books, Albus Dumbledore (wizarding chief of staff), makes an allusion to at one point needing to use the bathroom very badly, and stumbling upon a room entirely full of chamber pots.

In case Harry Potter is not your chosen nerd-verse, then a rough approximation would be the Holodeck on the Enterprise. The Holodeck is a big room that can be programmed to be just about anything/anywhere/anytime, thus fulfilling the same purpose of the Room of Requirement... that is, if your heart's desire was to be able to see Sir Patrick Stewart in full 1920's detective garb acting out some version of the Maltese Falcon. And lord knows, that's my heart's desire.

If you're not a nerd at all, and you'd rather I quit it with all the alienating geek-speak, then I will say that a final rough approximation would be the chalk sidewalk drawings created by Dick Van Dyke's character in Mary Poppins, and then subsequently leaped into by all the characters. Bert could draw any scene he wanted to imagine, including fox hunts and penguins, Mary Poppins could make it real, and people could spend time there. Or at least, people who were on Mary's good side. Mary probably wouldn't have let Mr. Dawes in any chalk drawing. Definitely not one with any whimsical singing or cupcakes.

Hiker Boxes are the hiking equivalent of the Room of Requirement, or the Holodeck, or the chalk drawings by Bert.

Hiker boxes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are almost always on the front porches of hostels and post offices in trail towns. Inside a hiker box could literally be anything.

The idea of a hiker box is that hikers who get a mail drop with too much stuff, or who are carrying things they don't want anymore, or if they simply are feeling charitable, they can leave anything/everything in a hiker box. Anyone can leave things, and anyone can take things out for themselves once it's been put into a hiker box. Sometimes they are full of treasure, and sometimes they are completely empty. Every day their contents change.

Hiker boxes "early on" in the trail (down in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee) are typically stuffed to the gills with awesome booty. There are tales of people finding entire stacks of Mountain House meals (a hippie version of MREs), that typically cost about $10 a pop, just abandoned for free scavenge. Catch needed a long sleeve shirt at one point, opened a hiker box, and found a bright pink half-turtle neck with a zip-up collar that was clearly designed for a 14 year old girl. Catch was very enthusiastic about this discovery, and wore the shirt unironically for several weeks because it was free, and because it was just what he needed. Sometimes there are batteries, or tums, or brand new Smart Wool socks, or unused ziploc bags, or gallon bags of fresh homemade cookies that someone's mom mailed to them, and they don't want to carry 36 cookies... for reasons beyond my understanding.

I have heard many beautiful stories about people needing something in particular, opening a hiker box, and finding exactly the thing they wished for. It's true that hikers are highly subject to harmless historical revisionism, as it usually makes stories better. So it's potentially more likely that people open a hiker box with no expectations, and then happen to find something inside that they didn't know they needed or wanted, but were super happy nonetheless. Regardless, hiker boxes are magical, and I'm pretty convinced that they're just portals to awesomeness.

The best thing I ever found was a Honey Bun. That's not sarcastic. It was before I ate myself sick of them, and they were the perfect calorie-laden brick of preservative horribleness. It wasn't any different from any other Honey Bun I'd ever eaten, but it was better, because it came from magic.

Clever Girl

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