You know they’re out there.
The human brain is driven to recognize patterns, to identify recurring themes in our external environment. A hiker’s brain is no different, and after countless hours on the trail a hiker begins to notice recurring personalities, different individuals with strikingly similar tendencies. My first three favorites today.
THE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: In the world of obstruction, The Offensive Lineman reigns supreme. His sole objective, his primary focus in life, is to ensure that you are moving as slowly as possible towards your final destination. This individual, uncanny in his ability to ignore passive coughs, telepathic in his capacity to swerve in anticipation of your passing moves, relentless in his dedication to maintain the lead. Nature has not blessed him with speed, nor the humility to let you pass by, but it has blessed him with the heart of a lion. Pass carefully, or you could end up in a ravine on the side of the trail.
THE TELEPORTER: Halfway up the trail and your thighs feel like an angry gorilla has been tenderizing them like an overripe banana. Three quarters of the way there and you’re debating whether to pawn your hiking gear or sell it all on Craigslist. Ten feet from the top and your calves are locked into a shriek-inducing, toe-curling cramp. Once on top you collapse in a heap to enjoy the hard-earned victory over a grueling hike; but before your calves let go The Teleporter wanders into view, a frail elderly type no less than 133 years old, shuffling to a stop with a smile on his face. His pack is twice the size of yours, his walking stick is ten times heavier than your titanium trekking poles, and he smells of Ludens and moth balls. You have no idea how this man has arrived at this destination looking so rested and self-confident, but you suspect there is a technology involved that is unavailable to the young and arrogant.
THE UMBRELLA: In the world of spectator sports there is a special hatred for the umbrella. Most professional stadiums no longer allow them, but for amateur affairs it’s not unusual for an umbrella to appear on soggy afternoons, blooming like a flower from the seat in front of you at the stadium. One thing that most umbrellas have in common (aside from the fact that you will immediately die if you open one indoors) is that the human eye cannot see through them. On the trail, The Umbrella takes the form of an iPhone photographer. This individual usually arrives just moments before you and has settled down for a long photo-shoot in the middle of the most perfect photographic scene of the hike. In all cases The Umbrella loiters around long enough to snap 37 blurry, poorly composed iPhone pictures. In most cases The Umbrella leaves the scene after the alpenglow has disappeared into the night alongside your dreams of a National Geographic feature.
There are more Trail Personalities to come. Next up: The Sponge, The Trail Statue and The Time Traveler.