Bend Beer Fest. A little city in central Oregon gathers 170 indie breweries, ten thousand people, jams music and organize a taste-for-a-token event where you browse from tent to tent and sip the liquid gold. Really, I was just here for resupplying food: a hit and run, then back to my “home”: The Pacific Crest Trail. But can’t skip a Beer Fest, so I joined the masses for a cultural excuse to a much less noble cause: getting drunk. I’m well tipsy as I write these lines. “Write drunk, edit sober” Hemmingway, the Nobel Lauret himself, said. I’ll skip the edit-part. And the Nobel-part.
Slowly but steadily it sucks the life out of you. The Rain. You walk in it, you eat in it, you camp in it, you wake up to it, you shit in it and wish you could shit on it. When the first dark clouds gathered, I found it amazing and lovely. Sun had been blasting down on me from a blue sky for 5 weeks as I negotiated the alpine high-scenery of stunningly beautiful Washington State. I had gotten to the point where I felt that I deserved rain. It, somehow, wouldn’t count if my walk was a “walk in the park” and I desired misery. Oh boy, I got it.
The first thunder was magical. The clouds drifted upwards across the mountain ridge and decreased my visibility to 20 m as I pushed on, shrouding me in dense fog. The eternal green color of the time-less evergreen pine-forest stood still and more silent than ever, as the water started to pour from above. Like even the trees could feel the presence of the loaded skies. The birds stopped singing and the chipmunks hid away as the distant rumble of thunder rolled across these lonely wooded hills. I kept walking. What else can I do?
As hours turned to days, my positivity dropped. Wet feet, wet clothes, everything wet, everything dirty and a backpack that’s a kilogram heavier with all the soaked items I’m carrying. And you can easily feel that elephant of 1 kg. Blisters spread like mushrooms on my feet. My heart nearly broke when my camera finally gave in and stopped working due to the constant dampness. I stare at the grey skies, halfway cursing, halfway praying. “Stay positive, don’t cave in” I tell myself. “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do” I repeat in my head.
Footsteps in the night. I wake up, anxiously listening, trying to assess the nature of the beast. Bears have a smelling-sense 6 times more effective than a bloodhound and can trace food from up to 3 km away. So they forage in the night, while I’m sleeping with my food in my tent. Don’t get me started on that discussion, 9 out of 10, it the safest place to store it: inside your tent. Huckleberries have been ripe for the last 2 weeks and the bears enjoy them even more than I do. My tent is surrounded by these tasty blue berries but deers also crave them. What’s out there, in the dark? I raise my head and see the unmistakeable silhouette against the grey night-sky, illuminated by the full moon: a doe, a female deer. Im halfway disappointed, halfway relieved. My movement makes the deer raise its ears and she runs off. 2 minutes later, she’s back, munching the grass where I took a pee: anything to get salt. Sure, it’s disgusting but I admire Natures way of recycling. My trash, the deers treasure. Out here, nothing is wasted. I take my smelly but sweat-salty shoes inside my tent: the deer are rumored to steal them, for the pleasure of licking off your salty feet-sweat, and that’s a risk far larger than a bear: 100 miles to civilization without shoes. Better play it safe: shoes sleep with me and my food, I can’t afford to loose either.
Finally, this morning, I cross the highway. I need new socks, new gaiters, a new water filter and more food. Stand there with my thumb out, watching cars pass by, smiling to off-set my otherwise unwelcoming dirty appearance. I have, literally, worn my only t-shirt for 8 days straight, I even sleep in it, it has almost grown in to my body. “Common, Americans, pick me up, I’m friendly and peaceful” I’m thinking. And I know the immense hospitality of The Americans, it is utterly shocking how helpful they are, more about that in a later blog. 20 minutes later and a firefighter picks me up and transports me the 70km into town. And a lively beer-festival that puts the “Budweiser-stereotype” to shame.
So cheers. To the eternal nature, to the friendly Americans, to the terrible rain, to the bears, the deers and the beers and the huckleberries. And most of all, to life.