Thursday, June 25, 2009

Return of the Endless Summer

Four years ago I spent a summer in Surfside Beach, South Carolina with a friend from school. I waited tables, slept, and surfed through the summer with an indulgent deliberateness. Each day I was committed fully to that day's task. Whatever whim struck me.

Some days we devoted ourselves to the sea. Leaving before the sun to catch the tide. Paddling naively into storms. Soaking in the lull. Whether the world brought us dolphins and rays or the perfect ride - we were in it with all that we could muster.

Still, some days we sat around the duplex past noon. Scheming.

And still more were spent in air conditioned chain restaurants accepting the masses' "travel money" to fund our loafing.

The double shifts both in the steakhouse and along the shore were consuming. With the rest of the world crowded out by longboarding trips, South American soccer matches, and general whimsy - the days shimmered under the heat, blurring from linear to indistinct.


Four years later, I am able to entertain a return of the endless summer, a more endless summer. After four months of South Carolina's oppressive 100-110 heat indexes, Kaitlin and I will leave one hemisphere's summer in search of another.

I cannot say now what the South American summer will bring. But the prospect of a desolate punta with only my mind to fill it is carrying me off before we've even left the ground.


As for the latest, we are nearing the "one month" countdown before we leave Columbia. Soon we must begin depossessing ourselves. Giving away clothes and other nonessentials we have acquired.
I am holding the line at two car loads of "stuff." Clothes, books, and kitchenware. Only what can fit inside the car and above in a rack for the drive out West.
After the next week it will be crunch time. The apartment will begin to disolve and then before we know it we'll begin the month-long renovation of my parent's home in Lugoff.
By the time we're comfortable in Lugoff we'll be in the car, headed for the Rockies.
By the time we're comfortable there, we'll be on a plane for Buenos Aires.
And so on... to where?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Advent of the Pack

I am by no means an amateur in the realm of travel. My wheels are well worn by the heat and texture of the United States and Canada. My senses have taken in a continent of homes. Floated, flown, on foot, and flying down the interstate, I have traveled.

Yet still, there are more disciplines of travel to embark upon. That journey being just as relevant as any destination in South America.

The Backpack: The portable macrocosm. A microcosm.

Here I will describe "learning":

This trip would hardly be possible in its organismic legitimacy without Kaitlin's experience and direction. The utility of the Backpack being a prime example. In order to brace my enthusiasm with composed pragmatism a test run was necessary. Thus: "The Advent of the Pack"

Last week Kaitlin and I organized a day hike to Paris Mountain in Greenville, South Carolina with my sister. Because I was immersed in a string of double shifts, Kaitlin manned the packing (though it is a necessary art for me to eventually master). After my Sunday morning shift at the cafe we loaded the car and set out for Greenville.
While waiting for Kristen in the parking lot we limbered up with handstands, stretching, and various gymnastics (which is undoubtedly a beneficial new activity for me). Kristen arrived and after a brief snack pack we moved the gear to Kristen's car and left for Paris Mountain State Park.
Being less than thirty minutes from metro-Greenville, the park's water access was bustling with families in bathing suits and towels. However, our destination "Sulphur Springs" required a five-ten minute drive up the meager 1,000+ ft mountain to the trailhead.
At the trailhead we joined a handful of vehicles carrying mountainbikers and a hispanic couple returning from a leisurely nature walk.
In the lot, we began my first lessons in carrying a pack:
  • Buckle the waiststrap, pull the strap to so the pack is snug to the hips, but not to the point of discomfort.
  • Tighten shoulder straps so the pack does not shift. Again, not too tight.
  • When climbing/extending, lock the knee so that the weight is dispersed evenly between the hips.
Five minutes up the trail, I'm feeling muscles being worked in ways I have never experienced. For a moment, I dread the three mile, "difficulty level 9" loop that awaits. However, the running dialogue between Kaitlin, Kristen, and myself helps to take my mind away from the physical.
The entrance to the trail is moderate enough for us to discuss a mesh of Ayn Rand, rational egoism, and general economic theory.

Body, Mind, ...

Eventually, the conversation pettered out and we entered into a new phase of the trek. From here, I say that I became very aware of myself. The muffled trod of our feet along the path and the occassional rustling in the trees and leaves were the only distractions from the rhythm we created.
For the next thirty minutes we spoke only in wonder at scuttling wildlife or warning of a perilous creek stone. Upon reaching the dam that secures Mountain Lake reservoir we marveled at our vitality. Sweaty, pulsing, and hardly fatigued.
Personally, the trail had offered a variety of obstacles in climbs and descents - trecherous and forgiving. A fairly thorough introduction to the disposition of the pack and its relation to my body.
The return (as always) proved to be the true test. I became conscious of the creeping fire in my lungs and thighs. Sweat leaked from my brow, sprung from my fingers, and pooled around my waiststrap. Still feeling power in me, I did not doubt my ability, but was dragged into feeling heavy.
Yet, the principles Katilin instilled held true and delivered me to the trailhead - soaked, but not sore.

I don't mean to sensationalize what was merely a jaunt in and out of the woods. However, the courtship of the pack is my purpose and a first date, no matter how tame, is worthy of examination.