Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Sounds of Nature

    Note from Ranger Nancy Rickman
    National Park Service
    U.S. Department of the Interior

    The following text was found among the scattered belongings at the last campsite used by Brent Noorda and Steve Moehle in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. From what we can ascertain, they must have run out of toilet paper sometime last Wednesday, and by Thursday morning all civility and rationality and decency was lost. Nine times out of ten this is how these wilderness expeditions go tragically astray: first the toilet paper runs short, and before you know it… just last week I rescued a woman running through the forest, half-naked (bottom half), shouting, maniacally, "does a bear wipe in the woods, does a bear wipe in the woods, does a bear..." And she was one of the lucky ones. The whereabouts of Brent and Steve remain unknown and, considering the activity level of wildlife in the area, increasingly unknowable. In Brent’s pack was an Emergency Relief Kit, lovingly supplied by his wife Amy, containing many medical items, a small stack of writing paper, and a pencil (Note to backpackers: In these parts the way we spell "Emergency Relief Kit" is "T.P."). In most cases these victims use such paper to write a farewell letter to their loved ones and a last will and testament, but in Brent’s case he choose to scribble out a final blog entry. Because this last blog was so obviously important to him, Google and Blogger have allowed me access to Brent’s Blogspot account to copy this final blog for him. What follows is Brent’s text, as near as I can decipher it. The only changes were to link to real pictures rather than try to reproduce his horrid drawings.

    - Ranger Nancy

I’m backpacking all week in the Ansel Adams wilderness with my pal Steve. We had a similar adventure twenty years ago (when I must have been about forty years younger—ow, my back). Occasionally we’ve skirted the John Muir trail, but mostly we’ve stuck to the M.C. Escher trail (no relation to M.C. Hammer, whose trail we can’t touch). The artist portrayed his trail something like this:

Amazingly, we always seem to be on the part of the trail going up (ow, my back).

One’s hearing becomes more finely attuned when one gets away from the clang and the clatter of civilization. These are some of the sounds of nature I’ve heard most often this week:
  • "Ungh, ungh, ungh" – This is the sound heard almost constantly with every step up the Escher trail. It becomes loudest (“UNGH!”) whenever I try to lift my pack from the ground to my shoulders, via my herniating discs.
  • "rrrrrrrrip" – This sound emanated from somewhere behind me when I was bending over. I later found a huge hole in the seat of my pants, so that must have been the sound of a viscous Yellow-Bellied Marmot that had attacked me from behind. The little cowards, always attacking from behind—I can’t think of any other reason why they call them "yellow bellied".
  • "Go away, bear. I have an itchy finger and I’m not afraid to scratch it. I also have a gun." – That’s the sound heard from my tent all night long whenever a twig so much as rustled on Escher’s Mountain.
A translation of those Sounds of Nature, for all you city folk who don’t understand nature-language, goes something like this: "You’re old, you’re fat & out of shape, and you’re a pussy."

Future generations of backpackers will thank us for our latest invention. It is a new backpack compartment for holding a helium tank. Two hoses run from the tank. The first hose goes to a balloon to be filled with helium so as to make the pack as light as desired. The second hose runs to the hiker’s mouth so he can take a drag and say "follow the yellow brick road" in a munchkin voice any time he wants to... again and again... "follow the yellow brick road"... over and over... all day long... until it stops being funny... which is never.

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