“I am not a fucking buffet!”
I shouted, and slapped the side of my thigh. Three mosquitos lost their lives in a single blow, and I was on a rampage. I dropped my pack to the ground and dove my hand into the bottom of the rear panel. Soon my fingers found a small plastic cylinder, and I triumphantly lifted the container skyward.
I had been carrying this travel-sized death ray with a 40% concentration of DEET since New York.
I frantically sprayed every exposed inch of flesh with it. Then, to further delay my complete decline into insanity, I coated my baseball cap and shirt as well. Finally. The micro-vampires were abated. My confidence grew as each landed and left, until eventually, none dared to land at all. Flies continued to orbit my head, their beating wings dominating the incoming array of sounds.
I took a brief, blessedly bug free breath, and continued on my way.
I was a mile from the first road crossing into Great Barrington. The second crossing was another eight trail miles away. These two points make the base of a triangle, with its apex being the the town itself. This is important to note, because it meant that I’d be interacting with hikers in town who were actually a half-day ahead of me on trail.
I had planned to hike to the second crossing, but the mosquito onslaught took its toll on me. Nearing 7pm, with the next shelter some five miles away, my legs begged reprieve. I had already put down twenty for the day.
“This is it.” I confirmed to myself aloud. On the curb I stood, thumb outstretched. Traffic was thin, the sun was fading fast, and everyone knows that hitches don’t happen after dark. Great Barrington is a ritzy place, and even the Subaru drivers are slow to pick up Hiker Trash.
My eyes caught a blue 5-Series BMW, but she passed too. I payed special attention to the pickup trucks, which account for most hitches, but the drivers barely noticed me. A horn honked and I turned around. The blue BMW had come back for me, an older blonde woman waving me closer.
By the time I approached the passenger side, a peach colored towel was laid out on the front seat. I climbed in and immediately apologized for the smell, lowering the window slightly upon entry. She laughed and off we went.
I explained that it was my second time through this section, and she thought that was quite odd.
“I thought hiking the Appalachian was a once in a life time thing?” She inquired.
I explained that I hadn’t actually hiked the whole thing yet, and that answer seemed good enough to satisfy her.
“GB is a big place, is this okay?” She asked, pointing at the parking lot of a bank. I agreed and hopped out, immediately orienting myself to the nearest Subway. I sat on a bench outside the restaurant, wolfing down my cold cut combo, and watching immaculately pedicured women in heels walk by. Town girls…
TaterTot made fun of my mention of town girls once.
“Fuck no dude! Give me a rough guy with an unkempt beard, and a little sunburn too. A dude who’s done some shit. Town girls!!! Psshhh!”
I made my way to the Berkshire Community Center on the north side of town. It was nearly 9pm and I was coming up on twenty-three miles for the day. I passed a high end Mexican place, which seemed to be piping the smell of carne asada into the air. I should have ordered two subs.
The sun had long set by the time I reached the center, but I was navigating by memory. Beyond the grassy side lawn there was a small kiosk and a dense wall of trees. An outsider would have no idea that twenty hikers were pitched a hundred feet away.
I crossed the small wooden bridge, and entered the tree line. I searched and searched for a spot, but the tent pads from 2016 had become quite dilapidated over the past few years.
I texted Jelly to see if she was camped somewhere with this labyrinth of pine needles and nylon domes. She was at the shelter. I knew I should have hiked on…
In one hammock I saw a cellphone-lit face. It looked like Chai. It was Chai. I hadn’t seen her since northern PA.
“Oh! That’s Airbud’s!” She replied, after I asked about the Quarter Dome pitched nearby. I had known Airbud for two days, therefore giving me adequate license to pitch three feet from his home.
Bivy’s are stealthy things. When Airbud returned to his dwelling, I actually had to greet him to keep from being stepped on.
“Wait! You don’t sound like Spoons?”
“Dude, it’s Dirty Girl.” I assured him.
“Duuuude! Do you want to go bowling?”
I assured him that all I wanted was sleep. It had been a long day. Already, my brain was busy deciphering the to-do list of town errands for the following day.
After nearly being stepped on for a second time, this time by an unknown hiker without a headlamp, I fell into a deep sleep.