Mountain Heights, Professor Conversation Begins
July 8, ’80
With my sleeping bag and a fully loaded bike pannier tied to opposite ends of the pole that I carried across my shoulders, Peter and I began our hike into the backcountry. I left my bike at the hostel. We were already pretty high up, so we didn’t have the typical climbing day that began most backcountry hikes. Peter was excited. He told me that the mountains were higher than the ones he had climbed back in Germany, where he was from. He turned out to be a good traveling companion with an unshakable positive disposition. Well, it was almost unshakable. But before I get into that story, I want to at least mention the dream I had on the first night out camping. My old girlfriend, Carin, came back into my life in that dream.
The dream was notable because it was a nightmare. My relationship with Carin was made possible because it was only meant to last a moment, a night, or a week. It was not meant to last the almost two years that we were together. Still, it ended as if it never had happened, and that was the nightmare. That level of relationship was nightmarish even in a dream. When I awoke I had a queasy stomach. I haven’t seen Carin in almost a year, and although I have never thought of her in a bad way, I absolutely know for sure I will never again engage in a relationship like that one. That would be insane.
It was on the trail, in late afternoon, on the second day of hiking, when Peter and I met three sweating backpackers coming towards us. They were exhausted. It was, for them, the first day of a ten-day hike, and they had prepared themselves well. That was the problem. On their backs they were carrying 70 or 80 lbs of equipment and supplies. After Peter and I satisfied their concerns about the upcoming trail—a lot of down hill and a beautiful stream to follow (we had just crossed over Nigel Pass), the three University of Kentucky professors suggested that we all spend the evening together. By that time Peter and I had pretty much eaten all of their pickled bologna. It would have been impolite not to accept their offer. And, besides, these guys wanted to lighten their loads. For Peter and I, it was mainly crackers and jelly until we returned to civilization, so there was really no decision to be made.