July 31, 2013
Once again I drove my car to Mary Thurston State Park in McClure, beat but boasting 15 miles hiked on the BT for the day. Not to mention the 15 miles biked to get back to the car. A few years ago I would have had trouble with just one of the day’s trips. The trail was pounding me into shape, and I felt great. I was only 50 miles from completing the entire loop.
I settled into my lawn chair and watched the sun paint elegant, vibrant colors onto the evening sky. The breeze off of the Maumee River was cool, and had just enough fishy smells to seem aromatic. But what elevated it all to a sensory extravaganza was the free concert from the tree frogs and bullfrogs. I was in the perfect “amphibitheater” to lounge and to reflect on some of the other sweet sounds I’d been treated to as I’d traveled the Buckeye Trail. There were many, but these may be my top five.
Sweet Sound #5: “Ice-cold Gatorade?” Was the heat causing me to hear things? Nothing would surprise me that third day of near-100 degree temps in July, 2012. No, Liz and Jim heard it too. We were passing one of the few houses near Enterprise that had power restored after the super derecho. There was Skip, swinging on the porch, and we all headed his way with our tongues practically dragging on the scorching driveway. Sure, I had delicious 90 degree tepid water in my camel, but I could hardly turn down the kind offer. Besides, I was always vegetable deficient on backpacking trips so I thought the brominated vegetable oil in the drink might be a remedy. In the heat that day it might have also prevented us from experiencing spontaneous combustion, since it is also an ingredient found in flame retardants. (Even though the FDA says it contains far less bromine than flame retardants, due to consumer rumblings and negative perception PepsiCo plans to remove BVO from Gatorade sometime this year.)
Sweet Sound #4: “Shower, anyone?” I was not one to refuse this offer from Jay on the third day of a six-day backpacking trip somewhere deep in Burr Oak State Park. Even if I had wanted to refuse, I’m sure my buddies would have tossed me into that camp shower anyway. Temperatures near 90 during the last week of April had generated a plethora of funky smells. Who knows what manner of microbes were lurking on my skin. What a treat—the shower had privacy, hot water, even some strong soap. Fortunately for all of us, everyone followed suit.
Sweet Sound #3: “I see a blaze!” Yeah, we knew that discussing politics or religion without a designated blaze-watcher could lead to trouble. There are still a few places on the 1444-mile trail with little or no blazing (some parks, for example, do not allow it), but out of the approximately two dozen times I got lost, there was usually no excuse. And I wasn’t “slightly lost.” Lost is lost. Maybe the worst case was when Bob and I went two miles in the wrong direction and had to backtrack every step to find the blaze we had passed up. (This happened two separate times.) I vowed that my last 50 miles would be only 50 miles.
Sweet Sound #2: “There’s the car.” Most of my trip around the BT was done in day hikes with a vehicle at both ends of the day’s hike. One hike in northern Ohio was 22 miles. I knew this would be a long walk—very fresh in my mind was the seemingly endless drive we encountered when we shuttled the cars—but it seemed as though I had been marching forever. On that day, after about 15 miles, I began “seeing” the car. The first sighting turned out to be a Caravan-shaped boulder. The next was a cow lazing along a fence line. The third was a speck of dirt on my glasses. When I really did see the car, some of the excitement had been dulled by the false alarms. Even so, Bob and I generated enough remaining energy to jump for joy . . . well, maybe that’s another hallucination. At least we were able to emit very contented grunts.
And Sweet Sound #1: “Ice cream stand!” Build one beside the Buckeye Trail and they will come. And they will indulge. Even if they are dehydrated, stinky, lost, and exhausted, eating a chocolate-dipped cone makes everything OK. There is, of course, the tendency to overindulge. They may eat an extra sweet treat to make up for the one they missed yesterday. The detailed planner may even eat another one in case tomorrow has an ice cream void.
But this croaking—Wow! It just may bump something off the list. The “orchestra” seemed to be performing a special piece to represent my journey: the high notes of the little peepers brought to mind the grand times, the booming bass of the bullfrogs the melancholic moments, and together they produced a “ribbeting” symphony in honor of my BT hike. What a sweet sound.