“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard M. Baruch
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” – Socrates
Just a few miles into my morning hike, I arrived at Fox Gap and saw some guys setting up a Trail Magic station. After helping them pitch the tent, I sat down and had a Coke and some chips. While I was visiting with them, Terodactyle arrived and sat down. He told me that he stayed at yesterday’s Trail Magic stop for five hours drinking beer, and then headed up the hill on wet rocks after the rain. He slipped on a rock and fell, landing on his head. He sliced open the top of his head and blood started pouring out. He applied direct pressure and finally got the bleeding to stop. I took a look at it and gave him some Tribotic ointment to put on it. He’ll have a nice scar but otherwise should be able to continue hiking. I guess the lesson to be learned is not to drink alcohol and hike, especially on slippery rocks.
There were at least fifty day hikers on the trail today, out getting some exercise on the 4th of July weekend. Most were headed to or from the scenic Lookout Rock at mile 1291.5. Just north of Lookout Rock, I looked down and saw the strangest looking insect. From a distance it looked like it had huge eyes, but they are just part of its shell. Curious, I did some research and learned that the insect is an Eastern Eyed Click Beetle or Alaus Oculatus. God apparently designed this insect with large fake eyes as a defense mechanism to ward off potential enemies. In effect, it wears a mask to pretend to be something it’s not. I guess we all do that from time to time.
On the AT, I can’t count how many times a passing hiker has said, “How ya doin’?” and I’ve donned the mask and said “Fine,” rather than more truthfully respond, “Well, I have moderate chafing today because my shorts and underwear are drenched in sweat…my scalp itches because I haven’t washed my hair in a week…I can’t feel the bottoms of my feet…I miss my wife to the point of crying…and 15 minutes ago I smashed a sweat bee on the side of my head and I believe its remains are lodged in my ear. Thanks for asking!”
I’m afraid too often “How ya doin’?” is just a greeting, something to say, without really the slightest interest in how the other person is doing. “Fine” is just something to say back and is hardly indicative of how the fellow hiker is actually doing or feeling. I’m afraid back in the real world I’m also guilty of this, both as the insincere questioner and less than truthful responder. Too often I’m nothing but an Eyed Click Beetle, wearing a mask and pretending to be something that I’m not.
So I’m going to work on that. I’d like to be more like my friend Jeff H. from Florida who is much more transparent about what he is facing in life as a husband, father, church deacon, etc. He’s less concerned with image and more concerned with genuinely telling it like it is. My new approach: After asking someone “How ya doin’?” and them answering “Fine” I’m going to look them in the eye and say, “Now tell me how you’re really doing?” I’m going to slow down life’s pace a tad and try to sincerely listen more and care more. I hope my family and closest friends will hold me accountable.
After 9.3 miles I arrived at the beautiful town of Delaware Water Gap. This town easily places in my Top 5 trail towns so far. For starters, the AT runs right through town so there’s no hitching or long side hikes required. Next, throw in the Church of the Mountain Hiker Center, a church hostel which offers free bunks (donations accepted), a shower, hiker lounge, lemonade, hiker box, etc. As I walked up its driveway, a friendly church couple exiting in their car rolled down the window and said, “Welcome! Make yourself at home in our hostel! There’s a gentleman up there who will shuttle you to Walmart or a grocery store or laundromat if you need that. And there’s a 4th of July concert on the lawn tonight…hope you can make it!” I thought they would just say, “How ya doin’?” to which I was prepared to say, “Fine”.
After claiming a bunk, showering, and weighing myself (188, down 46.6 lbs), I walked down the street to Edge of the Woods Outfitter for a new pair of hiking socks, backup trekking pole tips, and electrolytes. My next stop was the Village Farmer and Bakery where they offer, among many things, a hot dog and slice of pie for $2.95. While tempted to get three of those, I instead went with the barbecue brisket with mac n cheese and baked beans. That would be quite filling for a normal human. I am currently an abnormal human so I went next door to the Water Gap Diner for coffee and apple pie a la mode. As I turned around to speak to Foxfire, my 67 year old hiking friend, I spilled my hot coffee on my lap and dropped the cup on the floor. It was embarrassing and made my hiking shorts and underwear smell like Folgers for the next five days.
That night, my love affair with Delaware Water Gap continued as I dragged a lawn chair over to the pavilion and joined mostly older folks in listening to a local band put on a patriotic July 4th concert. At intermission I had two hot dogs, chips, a brownie, and lemonade. Towards the end of the concert they played a military medley. When the Air Force song was played, I stood (alone) and sang out like a proud Airmen. I got a few strange looks and a few laughs. That’s what happens when you take your mask off, show genuine emotion, and choose to be more then just an Eye Clicked Beetle.
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