Ages and ages (okay, three months) ago, in my Do-It-Yourself Raincoat post, I promised I’d expand on the black trash bag birthing story. Today, I am keeping that promise.
Allow me to set the stage.
Back in 2007, T and I and some of our friends took a weekend trip to Baxter State Park to attempt to summit Mount Katahdin. We were joined by two of my suburbanite cousins and their significant others.
The Maine contingent got up to our stunningly beautiful campsite on Friday evening. While we were waiting for my cousins to show up, we threw our sleeping bags and mats in the lean-tos. Since rain was in the forecast, we rigged up a tarp to extend from the front of the lean-to over the fire. We were good to go.
Now, I’m not the most experienced hiker in the world and I don’t pretend to have anything on T and his friend, Denis, who have hiked about 75 of New England’s 100 Highest. I’m also, by their standards, a pretty high maintenance hiker. I mean, I bring a toothbrush and toothpaste on overnight trips. In their eyes, that’s just extra weight.
But even I knew that when the serenity of the babbling brook was shattered by my cousins’ motorized air compressor…we were in trouble. And it didn’t stop there.
We had agreed on an early start the next morning. After all, Katahdin is no walk in the park. Actually, it is, but you know what I mean.
By 7:00 the next morning, our party was up, dressed and had bolted oatmeal and instant coffee. My friend K, and I had gone gourmet and added apple powder, nuts and dried fruit. The boys took it straight up.
I had just finished my luxurious brushing of teeth when my oldest cousin walked over. He sheepishly informed me that they’d had a rough night and hadn’t gotten up quite on time. Fortunately, they were just setting up the griddle on the portable grill for pancakes.
We sat back down to wait.
To be fair, I’m sure it was a difficult night. After all, they could only fit one of their air mattresses into the lean-to.
An hour later, we were ready to go.
Despite the start, we had a fantastic hike. Whatever they might lack in woodland skills, my cousins more than make up for in congeniality. We swapped stories and trail mix recipes, snapped some photos and had a lot of laughs.
But, by around 1:00, just before we reached Thoreau’s Springs, it had started to drizzle. We weren’t anywhere near the top and it was getting late. Rain was only going to slow us down and would make the return trip, in particular, a lot more dangerous.
The masterminds conferred while the rest of us started to dig raingear out of our packs.
Many true hikers don’t actually own “raingear” per se. They carry black trash bags. They’re lighter and if they get ruined, they’re pretty replaceable. And they’re cheap. And waterproof. And big enough to cover both you and your pack, making an additional pack cover unnecessary.
So, I pulled out my Bean’s raincoat, rain pants and pack cover and put them on.
Our friend Norm pulled out his black trash bag.
Generally, SOP is to make head and armholes before slipping the trash bag over yourself and your pack. Norm, apparently, felt this was too many steps. He pulled the trash bag over his head and tried to push his way through the material.
An imprint of Norm’s face slowly blossomed out of the plastic with his nose squished flat like a bank robber’s in a nylon sock. White lines appeared around his head as the bag stretched to the utmost, but still no breach. Picture grabbing Spiderman’s mask from behind and pulling backwards.
Suddenly, the tension on the bag eased and two little index fingers came burrowing their way through the top (formerly the bottom) seam, making a tiny hole. Then the fingers disappeared and were replaced by Norm’s forehead.
Push! I wanted to yell as the bag began stretching again. This time, the hole got gradually wider and Norm’s features began to appear. His entire head burst through with a pop!
Good thing he’d taken his glasses off first.
Unfortunately, the hole was about eight inches off the center of the bag, causing one corner to hug his shoulder snuggly and the other to jut out like a Lady Gaga fashion nightmare. Not to mention the Quasimodo hump that was his backpack.
Completely nonplussed, Norm sat down to eat his lunch of spray cheese and summer sausage. The rest of us were in hysterics.
The only bad part was that we decided that after lunch we would turn around and head for lower ground. It turned out to be a good thing we did, as the rain picked up and later there were lightning storms like you read about. So…our first attempt at Mount Katahdin: FAIL
The second attempt turned out quite a bit differently…as you’ll see if you continue to follow the Walk With Me saga!