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Happiness in the most unexpected places

For years, people told me that the only good stories I had started “Me and Drew were drinking . . .” (Yes, I know it's grammatically incorrect. Sometimes I don't speak in perfect sentence structure.) But there's one that tops those. On this rainy October day, I remember it.

Years ago, on a spur of the moment, my best friend Drew and I decided to get away and take a day hike. It was late October in upstate New York. Before the weather got too cold, we agreed to hike Mount Marcy, the tallest peak in the state. We drove north, laughing and telling stories and listening to music.

We had planned to sleep under the stars and start fresh in the morning. But we left late and it was dark when we arrived. With our single flashlight, we did the best we could. We made camp (of sorts) not far in from the parking area. We didn't have a tent, just sleeping bags. I slept on the bumpy slant of a rocky hill, my feet pointing downward. Drew slept in the trail, complaining all night about the “root up my ass.”

By morning, I had fallen five more feet down the hill, buried in dirt and dead leaves. Drew's ass was sore and he hadn't slept well.

We didn't see the sunrise. Clouds had come in over night and as we ate a hasty breakfast, the rain started. It was a good soaking rain, the kind farmers pray for during droughts. It slapped down on the dying leaves and on our heads.

Undaunted, we began our trek up the mountain. Marcy is a slow ascent. The trail is not particularly difficult or strenuous, just a long winding slog up. In better weather, it's a simple hike. As our clothes saturated and our moods dampened, however, it just became more and more of a slog through mud and wet leaves and tedium.

Hours passed. We saw no one else. We said little. We were determined and focused. The mountain and the weather would not defeat us. It grew colder and windier. I was not as prepared as Drew (he being more the outdoorsman) and I borrowed a poncho to protect me from the wind.

We reached a sign that read “Arctic Zone.” It marked where the climate actually changed from temperate to arctic. A park ranger sat near it. She asked if we planned on heading up. We said we did. She choked back a laugh. “Good luck,” she said.

At first, it was just like the rest of the hike. Then we heard it before we felt it. The wind rose. Not an idyll autumn breeze, but the first mighty exhalation of the God of Winter. It ripped through our wet clothes, and the cold froze into our bones.

Then the rain changed. It grew colder until it was chunks of ice falling out of the sky, stinging our already cold skin. The wetness we bore up the mountain clung to us. The trail steepened.

A gust of wind flew straight up my borrowed poncho. It went up over my head like a windsock. Drew tells how he heard, FWAP, FWAP, FWAP and saw my arms waiving about like the fabric, trying in vain to catch hold of it and pull it down.

Between the FWAP's came the yelps as hail the size of quarters pelted me. Drew saved me, pulling the poncho down so I could see. But the hail stung us both, on our faces, our necks, our hands.

We persevered. Sort of. We kept on, swearing and yelping while to increase our pace. But the cold and the rain had sapped our energy. We marched like men on their way to the gallows.

Then we saw it. The peak. A plaque bolted into a rock marked the spot. We saw it and agreed that was close enough. The view would not be anything to remember, standing in the middle of gray angry clouds. We turned back without any reflection or hesitation.

We passed the “Arctic Zone” sign. The ranger was gone. The cold rain was a comfort after the frozen hail.

Soon, Drew announced he had to pee. I stopped.

“You need to help me,” he said.


“My hands are numb,” he said, holding them up. Cold water dripped off them like he had just run them under a faucet. “I need you to undo my pants.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded.

“Dude, I'm not touching your wet crotch.”

He tried on his own. “I can't,” he moaned.

I undid the zipper and he managed the rest. Thank God.

We hiked down the mountain in silence. We were tired and hungry and frustrated and miserable. I don't remember anything we said the rest of the way down the mountain or on the four-hour-ride back home. I think our misery eased when we filled our bellies.

This story is often told. Drew does a much better job telling it than I do. His animated telling generates laughter from everyone, even those who have already heard the story countless times. Whenever we're together, especially with beer in us, it comes up again. And we laugh hard about it.

Drew has been my best friend for a very long time. We're bad about keeping in touch, but we know we'd be there for each other if necessary. We get together when we can, but it's hard because of geographical distance and work and family responsibilities.

The misery of that moment has transformed through time and friendship into the bliss of its reliving and retelling. I sit here in my cozy, dry office drinking hot camomile tea and watching the pour outside. A smile spreads across my face.

This adventure stays with me. And I'm happy. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

[posted for LJ Idol Week 3 - "A Moment of Bliss"]



( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 8th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
I love this story. I bet the telling in person is even better.
Oct. 8th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
You're absolutely right.

Thanks for reading.
(no subject) - rosepurr - Oct. 11th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dabhug - Oct. 11th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 8th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
Memories like that are wonderful! And they are more wonderful in the retelling. Nice entry!
Oct. 8th, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
Oct. 8th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
I love the take on this... that your bliss comes from the retelling... My longtime friends and I have many such stories... it's true how they grow to be beloved no matter how pathetic or tragic the actual event was... thanks for sharing yours!
Oct. 8th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading.
Oct. 8th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
There is so much similarity between this and the time Drew and I did a 21 mile hike on a 90 degree day with only 1 gallon of water. With the major exception that I didn't need to help him pee.

I've heard this story many times before from you, from Drew, and a few times with both of you at the same time. I have to say that it never gets old.
Oct. 8th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, somehow it doesn't get old. It just gets funnier.
Oct. 8th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
I just about died laughing when I read this. It smacks of stupid and of "day trip adventure" gone horribly wrong.

I don't even think I could have honored that request for my husband and I'm female!

Good writing!
Oct. 8th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Oct. 9th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
"This adventure stays with me. And I'm happy. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. "

At this moment, as I read this, a wide smile spreads across my face, and I know your moment as my own.

Oct. 9th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Oct. 9th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
This story made me laugh [and worry, when you guys were really cold], and I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing it with even more people!
Oct. 9th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading.
Oct. 9th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
Sounds like a great memory - thanks for sharing!
Oct. 9th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading.
Oct. 9th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
Awesome choice, baby!!
Oct. 9th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks, darling. I hope you liked it. :)
(no subject) - rosepurr - Oct. 9th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thndrstd - Oct. 9th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 9th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of many of the stories my greatgrandfather used to tell. :)

Wonderful entry.
Oct. 9th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
Oct. 10th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
Great story.
Oct. 10th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading.
Oct. 10th, 2008 03:36 am (UTC)
This was an amazing story... thanks for sharing it! Great Job!
Oct. 10th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Oct. 11th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
A true best friend... Funny the things that resonate with you - for me it was your comment "We're bad about keeping in touch, but we know we'd be there for each other if necessary." That really is friendship.
Oct. 11th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )


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