Monday, December 8, 2014

41. Sunset

The day before Dumptruck dislocated his shoulder, our hiking day was cut short by a control burn. I wish I could explain to you why control burns happen, but apparently it is good for a forest ecosystem if every once in a while a whole bunch of it burns down. I believe that this is good science, but it feels very counterintuitive. Personally, if a professional doctor told me that, for my health, she would need to set me on fire, I would be very suspicious of her. But I guess the ecosystem of my body is different from the ecosystem of a forest. For example, there is hardly any lichen or moss growing on the north side of me.

We were down south, and Shanty Town (our hiking group) consisted only of Hotdog, Apollo, Whistle, Dumptruck, The Hunger and I. In my original post about the control burn, I briefly mentioned our short day, but neglected the best part. Here's a section from the original entry on 4/11/13:

No thru-hikers were being let through a 6-mile stretch of the trail due to the fire, and were being rerouted up to an overlook to camp. Shanty Town, though feeling a bit sad that we could not make up some extra miles, set up camp and watched the near mountains turn into Mordor. While we watched the mountain burn on one side of the bald and watched the sunset on the other, I macraméd my hiking poles. I have no excuse for this, except that they didn't look aggressively granola enough for me. 
What I didn't talk about why this was the best sunset of all time. 

There were a fair amount of stranded hikers on this particular mountain, due to the fact that none of us wanted to be set ablaze. As dusk started to settle in, everyone migrated out onto this really beautiful hill, to sit and watch the sun set over the horizon. There were maybe 10 people or so, sitting quietly, enjoying the view and chatting politely to one another. This was still early on in the trail, when people were still clinging to some last shred of manners.

I decided it was high time to just blow that right out of the water.

I turned to Hotdog and Whistle, and started chanting quietly, in a tune all too familiar,

"Pink pajamas penguins on the bottom..."

Hotdog and Whistle immediately joined in, and the three of our voices joined together, in a rhythmic, nonsensical chorus. A couple of the other hikers glanced at us and went back to their conversations, not knowing how deeply we were committed to our childhoods. Once you start a Disney song, you will finish it. 

At the appropriate time, I began,

"From the day we arrive, on the planet..."

Whistle continued, "And blinking, step intoooo the sun..."

Hotdog continued, raising her voice slightly louder, "There's more to see, than can ever be seen..."

"More to doooo, than can ever be doooone."

Still, we were being respectful, our singing was nice background noise, not interrupting anyone's conversations. 

Until, of course, the chorus arrived. 




And so on and so forth. All three of our voices joined together, and as the sun really did roll high in the sapphire sky, we finally allowed ourselves to be free of regular societal expectations placed on adults. We were on a mountain. The sun was setting. It was still early, no one was sleeping. The people around us were dumbfounded, and maybe a little bit scandalized. The funny part about this, is that less than a month later, everyone would be indoctrinated enough into the culture of hiking that not only would no one have been offended, absolutely everyone would have joined in.

Notice us on the left with Then Hunger. Notice the other four people leeeaaaning away from us.
But really, doesn't that look like the Lion King sun?! It was impossible to resist singing!

The song ended with a fully committed "OOOUUUUFFFF LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!" 

And then there was silence.

Dumptruck clapped for us, enthusiastically. Someone else coughed quietly. All the other strangers went back to their conversations.

I've never been more proud.

Here are some more sunsets!

Clever Girl


  1. Replies
    1. Love you too, Miss Beth. You are Bern are simply the best.

  2. Fires make the best sunsets! So I did controlled burns for decades (and still sometimes get out to do them). Because we've messed up the forest by not letting smaller, more frequent fires go through like they are supposed to, clearing out the undergrowth, because we've (and when I say we, I generally mean the land management agencies) allowed massive grazing, reduction in species that used to be there, etc etc etc, now it is believed that we need to burn, trying to reintroduce fire to the landscape. I have seen where it works really well and where it doesn't. Generally this is what happens when people mess around with an ecosystem.

    1. Hi Mary!! Thanks for your insight and for explaining this! I know that it's important, but I never really understood why. Thanks for all your hard work on keeping the forests healthy!