June 9, 2013
There is the hard-core hiker who keeps an eye on the weather channel, waiting for the worst possible conditions before heading out to the trail. He might be heard saying, “Hey, an ice storm is coming! I can try out my new contour-hooded sleeping bag with Techloft Insulation good to 20 degrees below zero and my ice cleats with tungsten carbide studs.” Or maybe, “They’re predicting 12 inches of rain. Great! I’ll break out my 20 denier nylon rain jacket with 15.5-inch pit zips and my downpour wide brim rain hat. Just in case, I can take the self-bailing inflatable kayak.”
That is not me, though. I’m more the common-man variety who will say or do anything to get out of a nasty-weather hike–as long as it sounds or looks manly, of course. Having major surgery, helping a friend move, contracting elephantiasis. Well, that last one’s a little far-fetched, but you get the picture. Just so I don’t have to say, “No, I’m just too comfortable here on my couch eating Krispy Kremes and watching TV to go out and walk through rain, sleet, and snow and sleep in freezing temperatures this weekend.”
Some fortunate people have manlier excuses to offer. One of them was Grandpa. Going through the Depression like he did, he could have said, “I spent the first three years of my marriage camping in the woods while running our sawmill business. Sometimes the snow was high enough to drift over our tent. Why would I want to do it for recreation when I can finally afford a nice warm home?” Another one was Dad. I could hear him say, “My Ranger unit marched with 100 pounds on our backs till our feet bled and the frost nibbled our toes off. Why go hiking with you guys in this weather? To prove I’m a man? Are you guys nuts?” (Dad always used the direct approach.) You would then feel a tinge of guilt for even inviting him to experience the Arctic blast in the first place.
Most of us don’t have such good excuses, but we don’t want to lie. Therefore, we need honest and practical–and yes, manly–justifications for getting out of a less-than-appealing hike. I have discovered a couple of promising possibilities.
The first is the “My-house-is-crying-out-to-be-fixed Excuse.” This can come in many forms, but mine involved pipes and water. Walk around your house and look for drips. Look at the drains under the kitchen sink for leaks. Maybe the washtub in the basement has a coating of mildew from not drying out. Don’t forget to pull back the curtain and check the shower head. You might not have to look at all. Just stay very still and listen . . . listen for the ping-ping-pings and the plop–plops that you have become immune to over the months. You’ve been in denial and wondering why you were paying more to the water company lately.
Somewhere near that defective faucet or drain is a lead or galvanized pipe, and you will have to make nine trips to Lowe’s to get the right adapters and fittings. For the first time, it seems worth the wait of putting off the repairs. You can fix the drip now in a warm house–or you can go on the hike and wake up in a tent, after shivering all night, and be trapped because the zipper on the tent is frozen. Make the call to your buddies to say that you have a plumbing issue, and you have to take a pass. Don’t say “raincheck”; they might get suspicious that the weather is a factor.
Maybe you have a newer home with modern plumbing, but I’ve got you covered as well. I call this the “Need-to-do-some-wife-time Excuse.” Unless you are the perfect husband, you have something you could or should be doing to spark the relationship (besides fixing the plumbing). Maybe you need to do something more creative than watching “The Middle” together while you eat leftover Easter candy. Maybe you sense that scrubbing up for an evening out at Walmart is shy of the mark. It’s time for something more on the level of a bed and breakfast weekend—away from home. Call the guys and explain that it’s more crucial for you to do some wife time than some bro time. Thank them for inviting you and wish them luck. How easy was that? This excuse is even Biblical. We are told to love our wives like we love our own bodies. I love my wife enough to keep my body out of the elements and in the tourist shops with her. Not married? I’m sure you could find other family members you have been neglecting.
Of course, there is always the “Truth Excuse.” This involves manning up. Call your buddies and tell them the truth. For me the truth is that walking under a rainsuit all day with a glazing of ice on it is not my idea of fun. Maybe that is as manly an excuse as my father’s and grandfather’s, after all—telling the truth. Just not quite as macho.
I know. Most of us probably wouldn’t use the last excuse. It’s harder for guys to admit their lack of enthusiasm for enduring frostbite- and hypothermia-friendly conditions than it is for penguins not to waddle when they walk.