Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ketchup River and the Mysterious Naked Man on the Mountain

First, I need to assure (or disappoint, depending on why you're reading this) everyone that there will be no photographs of the naked man mentioned in the title of this post. Sorry.

I mean, there will be pictures of the man, but he won't be naked. Not anymore, at least.


That's the naked guy on the left there. My best buddy in the world, Ben, the non-naked naked guy.

I frequently write about my hiking trips with Julie, my hiking wife, which is odd in itself because this blog is supposed to be about being a children's author and illustrator. Don't believe me? Go look at the title.

See? Smarty-pants You thought it was a hiking blog didn't you?

That's the thing. Being an author and illustrator is really, really slow and boring. At least from a daily writing about it sort of standpoint. A writing/illustrating blog might go like this:

August 16, 2012

Today I had some coffee, read a bit, went back over a chapter I had written and rewrote a few sentences, smoothing out the flow and changing some rather embarrassingly passive writing. Then I worked on some sketches for another book idea that sounded great when I had it, but is turning out to be kind of dumb. Then I sat there mulling over my life-choices for awhile and smiled because I've never worked in a cubicle. Then I ate lunch.



But, if I write about other stuff, I can say things like:

August 12, 2012

While hiking with my buddy Ben today, I saw a ketchup river and a totally naked man on top of a mountain.

Much more exciting, isn't it?

And it gets even better. Because I was actually hiking with the naked guy. He wasn't nude while he was hiking, of course. Nudie-hiking only leads to uncomfortable chafing and leaves you with absolutely nowhere to keep your car keys. But there was a brief time when–and I need to make this perfectly clear to Ann, Ben's wife–with absolutely no prompting from me AT ALL, Ben was completely naked on top of the most hiked mountain in North America.

(Fade back to the beginning...)

August 12, 2012

I arrived at Ben's house at the decidedly unwholesome hour of 7:00 a.m. I have frequently noted this particularly profound character flaw in my friends who like to hike. They like to start off when normal people should just be considering the idea of thinking about the concept of possibly getting out of bed.

When I arrived, Ben was finishing his breakfast and, rather than offering me a cup of coffee, he offered me a coffee cup. It was cruel of him to give me an empty mug, but we've been friends since the beginning of time, so I forgave him. Also, it was a very cool mug.

Ben is a potter and makes mugs of unusual design and resplendent beauty. He is also very generous with his mugs. I discovered this years ago when we were camping together. He had a great mug with him that he was drinking his coffee from. I complimented the mug, as it was so worthy of compliment, and he gave it to me. After he finished his coffee, of course.

The same thing happened with another mug many months later.

I started following Ben around everywhere, complimenting everything.

"Hey. I like that car you've got there."

"Whooo-boy, that is a tasty looking burger you've got yourself, buddy."

"Hey, wow. Where'd you get that awesome twenty dollar bill?"

And let me tell you all now, before  Ben develops a lemming-like crowd of people, dogging his every step and complimenting him on everything, it only works on mugs.

So he gave me a mug and we started on our way to Mount Mondanock, the most hiked hill in the Western Hemisphere.

I will admit that I have hiked Monadnock a couple times before and have never been thrilled with it. It's a nice enough hike, but when you reach the summit, you generally find enough people there to populate a smallish country. They mill around, texting friends, snapping pictures of themselves, and generally getting on my nerves.

But I hadn't seen Ben in a while and a long hike through the woods seemed like a great way to have time to catch up.

Also to see if I could get a new backpack by complimenting his.  (Nope.)

We began our hike at the shore of Dublin Lake, conveniently located in Dublin, right next to a driveway with a huge gate, two security cameras, and a sign, assuring visitors that "Trespassers Will Be Arrested".

The wonderful part of this particular trail is that almost nobody uses it. Probably because of that sign next to it.  We wandered through the still morning woods, listening for the sound of trespassers being arrested, and trying to avoid stepping on the suicidal orange newts that darted out across the path as we walked past.

We passed Bunny Skull Stick, named by me, right this second, because it looked eerily like a bunny skull. If bunny skulls had ear bones, which I suspect they do not.

Does Hugh Hefner know about this copyright infringement by Mother Nature?

 We soon found ourselves climbing above treeline and may have become disoriented and lost our way had it not been for Ben's superior navigational skills.
Ben leading us safely to the summit using only the sky and some small, orange newts to direct him.

We discovered a small crevasse that had a rock in it shaped almost exactly like New Hampshire.

Look closely. It's there.

 I told Ben that I really, really liked it and he offered to give it to me.

But when he tried to lift it out, his head got wedged in the hole. His pitiful cries for help started to irritate me while I was eating my granola bar so after a couple hours, I helped him out and we continued up toward the summit, now tantalizingly close.

You will notice that the summit was not as tantalizingly close as Ben was, however. I suggested that I just hike to him and we could call it a day and go home so I could drink out of my new mug. Ben, however, is made of sterner stuff, and insisted that we carry onward toward the summit which was not actually tantalizingly close at all.

Our climb brought us past such stunning natural phenomena as:

The Mysterious Rusty Bucket in the Middle of the Wilderness.

The Elegantly Stacked Pile of Rocks.

Some Slanty Rocks.

The Sacred River of Ketchup Which Did Not Photograph Well At All And Actually Appears Rather Disappointing Here. Sorry About That.
Ben's Incredibly Absorbent Hat.
The Tiny Pond That Contained No Fish.

The Trail To The Summit, Which Is Vertical.

We slogged ever onward toward the summit, now a paltry 3,652 miles away. When we did reach it, we were rewarded with the splendor of a bunch of kids texting each other.

Two of the hundreds of teens cluttering the summit like it was the food court at the mall.

Directions painted on the rocks, lest you lose your way.

Ben and me at the summit, contemplating lunch.

A desperate plea for help that turned out to say "Peace" not "Oh please help us. We've been stranded here for twenty three days because we couldn't read the giant signs painted all over the summit and now we're lost and we've been eating orange newts dipped in ketchup from the ketchup river - and that's not ketchup."

I was also treated to a scenic view of Ben's sweaty rear-end. Ben was unable to appreciate this view, so I photographed it for him. You're welcome, Ben.

We decided to have lunch down by the shores of Tiny Lake. I complimented Ben on his lunch, as well and he gave me a bite - I love that guy!

After lunch,  Ben thought he would take the opportunity to change. He has a history of sweating in a manly, invigorating way and, being brilliant, he had packed himself a clean, dry outfit to change into.

What I assumed would be a quick change into a dry shirt wound up with Ben, stripped naked and happily air-drying himself in the mid-day sun right on the trail up Mt. Monadnock, which, I may have mentioned, is the most hiked mountain in North America.

He sunned himself and enjoyed the feeling of nature all over him. I suggested that he might consider applying some more sunscreen if he intended to hike the rest of the way like that because, well... you know.

We were out of sunscreen, so he opted to get dressed again. Our descent included the death-defying crossing of The Chasm of Death.

The crossing left us both terrified and drenched with sweat. Ben developed a Mysterious Sweaty Clown Face of Mystery on his shirt. A sign to rival my very own Sweat Bunny.

In case you're having trouble seeing it I've made this helpful infographic:

Because that's the kind of friend I am.

Our hike ended at Dublin Lake where we took a cool refreshing dip before heading back to Ben's house where I complimented the large bottle of rum he had in his kitchen and he obliged me by filling up a really nice mug with it.


1 comment:

Putnam said...

I'm particularly pleased to see that you linked to some of my other sweaty moments. I see a new theme.... maybe a new book. If you ask I'll give you that sweaty shirt. I don't think I've washed it yet.
Love, Ben