My friends and I are talking about hiking.
We’re telling each other stories about the great outdoors and trips with our family or friends or by ourselves when we weren’t so busy. We’re telling ourselves that we need to reconnect with the earth and the sky, that we need exposed ridgelines and dew drops on spider webs and the heavy silence of a morning fog before it burns away.
We are ordering maps and GPS units and a compass on a red and white string. We’re sitting in our houses, researching hammocks and tents and bivvy bags and tarps and arguing about the benefits of each one.
We say: we need hammocks.
We say: what if there are no trees?
We say: it’s nature; of course there are trees.
We say: let’s just take tents.
We say: they’re too heavy. And what if there are spiders and snakes?
We say: it’s nature; of course there are spiders and snakes.
We say: nature’s fucked.
We are buying boots with names like Snowdon and Everest and Denali and Moab and Khumbu or are those just places? We’re researching leather and Goretex and cushioning and comfort, except for Chris, because Chris only hikes in sandals and nobody wants to sleep in a tent with him.
We are breaking our boots in.
We are breaking our boots in so damn hard.
We are wearing our boots around the house and to the shops and bed and work. We are wearing our boots with jeans and chinos and suits and shorts. We are wearing our boots naked in the shower just to test if they’re waterproof.
We are marching into shops and asking about carbon pegs and bamboo cutlery and the difference between a Trangia and a Jetboil. We’re walking out with space blankets and flints, parachute chord and hunting knives, water filters and one She-wee each despite none of us being women. We are prepared for everything, even growing a vagina.
We are signing up for survival courses and learning how to skin a rabbit. Not one of us could kill a rabbit, but should we come across a dead one we will skin it to within an inch of its life and then we will feast. We’ll feast like our ancestors and the flames will flicker and dance and the scent of burning pine will embed itself in our goose-filled jackets and our wild souls and we will carry it everywhere until it comes out in the wash like everything else.
We are preparing meals with a satisfactory balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. We are dehydrating spaghetti bolognaise and curry and making trail mix and Chris is allergic to nuts and he can have his own fucking scroggin with raisins in it. We’re weighing our food and weighing up our options. We’re packing and unpacking and repacking and cursing. We are cutting down on weight and cutting up our toothbrushes. We’re saving space and making room for something else.
We are telling our loved ones our plans and when we’ll be back and we’re crammed into a hatchback writing Facebook statuses that say: going off grid.
We are arguing over whether it’s statuses or statii.
We are winding up narrow roads and taking the corners recklessly. We are climbing higher and higher and checking our Facebook for likes and complaining about the lack of reception. We are stopping for Chris to be carsick and filming his lunch, zooming in on a chewed-up piece of salami while a mountain peak gleams with the lightest dusting of snow above us.
We are playing I Spy and hip-hop and arguing about which movie gives a more realistic sense of nature. Our noses are pressed to the window and it’s Lord of the Rings and it’s Braveheart and Chris’s window is rolled down.
We say: this is living.
We are parking at the trailhead and lacing up our boots and wishing that we broke them in more. We’re swinging packs onto shoulders and our spines are screaming, screaming at bad postures and desk jobs and rotten cores. We are walking along a marked trail with our noses in maps and we are stopping to take compass bearings and someone has left the GPS in the car and maybe our dinner too.
We are digging holes and talking about poo. We are squatting with our pants around our ankles and wondering if these are the woods that the Pope shat in. We’re shifting dirt with bright orange spades and placing rocks on top with sticks in the shape of an X. We have buried our treasure and we will leave no map.
We are setting up camp and Chris is complaining because he’s carried a tent by himself because nobody wants to sleep with him and his feet hurt from his sandals and we are shaking our heads. We are eating crackers and cheese because dinner is in the car. We are drinking wine and whiskey and we are slumped in chairs that we don’t need and we can’t do without.
We say: there’s the North Star.
We say: mate, we’re in the Southern Hemisphere.
We say: then where’s the Southern Cross?
We say: tattooed on Chris’s arm.
And we’re falling off our chairs and laughing and Chris isn’t though now he is. We are looking into the fire and everything in the world is converging towards its glow, all the mountains and stars and wisps of cloud and the unbridled energy that swirls around exhausts us. We are silent. We are silent except for Chris, who shifts his weight and stares into the fire and says: I’ve missed you guys.
We are smiling but Chris can’t see it. The world is burning bright at our feet but not bright enough to show him we care.
We say: fuck off Chris.