Thursday, March 28, 2013

Another Anniversary. Is That Down?

As I sit here with my bad knee up, and thinking about Dad's anniversary I am reminded of our 1981 trip to the Great Smokey Mountains portion of the Appalachian Trail.

In 1981 Dad was 39, seven years younger than I am now, but he too suffered from a bad knee that year.  That combined with a bad experience he had on the 1971 attempt at the same trip made him take up a particular strategy for the '81 trip.

In '81 Dad and Rich Zeremba were the two adults and there were seven scouts, Jac Charlier, Dave McCormick, Don Cotar, Shawn, Ken Klusendorf, Myles and me.  I was the Senior Patrol Leader, but we were all very seasoned, experienced, expert campers.

Dad's strategy was to hang back with Z, be the last ones to leave camp each day, and to be the last into camp each evening.  We had no problem with this as we had a crack crew and a great youth leader (me) with a plan (duty roster).

We young bucks loved to stop for a rest and as soon as the adults reached us on the trial, we would hop up and rush off.  I rarely saw Dad on the trail.

One day as they we were hiking along we passed a Ranger who was doing some sort of ranger-y things in the National Park.  I remember I didn't pay him much mind, but when Dad reached him they had been having a rather rough day.  It was one of our longer days and it seemed like we were hitting several peaks.

Leaning wearily on his hiking staff, and breating heavily, Dad asked the Ranger how far it was to the campsite.  The Ranger said that it was only another couple of miles and not to worry because it was all, "basically down" to the camp.

It was five miles I think and when Dad and Z finally made it up the mountain to the top where our camp was he collapsed in the Adirondack shelter mumbling something about how, "Up" was the same as, "Basic Smokey Mountain Ranger, 'Down.'"  From that day forward Dad used that phrase whenever he could.

We woke on our last day on the trail with only seven members in our shelter.  Dad and Z were gone, and so were their packs and gear.  This was very disturbing because we woke with the dawn.  They must have left in the dark of night.

We quickly got ready and got on the road ("hit the bricks" as Dad would say) as soon as we possibly could.

I was hesitant and wanted to search around before we left, just in case, but the rest of the boys were determined to catch Dad and Z up before the end of the trail.

I was the last to leave that day.

Somewhere about halfway through the day's hiking Jac and Don caught up to the adults.  They wouldn't let them pass.  It seemed that my Dad was, despite being last every other day, and clearly the slowest member of our group (with his bum knee and all) determined to be the first to finish with whole length of the park.

Sure enough he was.  I found him laying on the grass beside the road with his feet up and his shoes off.  We had reached our pick up point about four hours ahead of schedule and with no way of alerting our Ground Support (Aunty Mae).

So, in the end the Ole Man put one over on us.  He pulled a Kobiashi Maru and changed the rules of the game so he could win.

As the song says, Dad, "...cut a hole and pull me through."  If anyone can, you can.

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