I'm not a very big guy. In fact, weighing 123 pounds in college, my 5 feet, 10 inch frame would
probably be more correctly described as alien, however thanks to my friends and a 73 mile hike over four days, my 123 pounds dropped to 108. Do you want to know what that looks like? Nope. Neither did my friends after seeing my emaciated body during the after hike, communal shower. So where did things go wrong? Let's review!
The Invitation of Pity
Most people mingle with their own kind. For me that would be pencil pushers and extroverted geeks you would rather stare at your shoes than their own, but fate has always dropped me in front of guys who kill people for a living (current job, different story) or muscle bound, man crushers. The later were my college friends.
One day while kicking around the latest algorithms in my dorm room, a gladiator, thunder-knock rattled the door. My friends came to talk and mentioned that they were going on a hike in the mountains. I responded that I had never been on a hike unless walking to the fourth floor computer lab counted.
Partially out of guilty and partly our of humor, they invited me and were surprised to hear my answer. Not "Hey, Really?!?!" surprised, more like, 3 more-visits-that-week-to-make-sure-I-still-wanted-to-go surprise. (WARNING #1).
A Mother's Concern
Three months later we left campus and headed to Joe's house. Joe, a 240 pound college defensive lineman, was our leader and had planned each day. His mother, Alice, met us at the door as we arrived.
"Hey Mom, this is Skinny," said Joe introducing me to his mother. As a look of bewilderment crossed her face, I could see the wheels cranking away in her head. That night after a short shopping trip Mrs. Alice approached me.
"Skinny, how about when the boys go off tomorrow, you stay here with me. I could take you to some shorter day hikes and show you around. How does that sound?" What! Give up. Turn back before I even start. I politely refused her offer, but started to wonder what it was all about after she brought it up again the next morning at breakfast, and then again at the gas station near the trail-head, and then again as she was trying to shove a giant piece of cake in my hand while I was starting up the trail. (WARNING #2)
Which One of These Is Not Like the Other
There were seven of us attempting the hike. In one corner was Joe, whom I've already described. Along with him was a 190 pound running back, a 260 pound mountain man, a 210 pound cabinet-maker, and two normal looking guys that had more mountain gear than a Bass Pro Shop and REI store combined.
In the other corner was me, light weight, wafer thin with glasses, using borrowed equipment pieced together from 5 different people and wearing sneakers. Hey, at least if we ran out of food there wouldn't be much of me for them to eat. (WARNING #3) Speaking of food...
The Grocery Store
What does a defensive lineman and a pencil-neck, computer scientist have in common? I'll give you a clue. Not much, and especially not what they eat.
Joe subscribed to the Slim Fast diet but not the normal Slim Fast diet mind you. It went something like this:
Breakfast: A shake + breakfast
Lunch: Two shakes + lunch
2nd Lunch: Two shakes
Dinner: A shake plus a sensible dinner
Evening Snack: Milk and Pancakes
Let's just say Joe could afford to miss a few meals. So why wouldn't I listen to him when he told me that all I would need for breakfast was oatmeal. I could live off bagels, noodles, and rice for everything else, right? (WARNING #4)
The Victorious Start
Day 0, 2 Miles: The start was a breeze. Two miles in and setup camp. I congratulated myself on a job well done and even noticed that I came in ahead of some of the other guys. In my mind I knew I owned this trail! I finished up the day with some noodles and went to sleep.
Day 1, 15 Miles: I started the day with a nice bowl of oatmeal, and we got on the trail. After five miles I was even out in front. The greatest thing was seeing the surprise on Joe's face. "Seriously dude, I would have never thought you would be ahead of those other guys."
Lunch was a peanut butter and jelly bagel and dinner was noodles. After a fifteen mile hike, it wasn't hard to get to sleep.
The Inglorious Decline
Day 2, 20 Miles: The next morning I gulped down my oatmeal and decided to get out in front early. Things were going great and then it started.
All the sudden my body started to play tug of war with my stomach and the oatmeal was caught in the middle. On one hand my body was screaming for nutrients due to the previous days hike, on the other hand my stomach didn't seem to find those nutrients in the oatmeal. After a good long sit and some water things seemed to settle down.
Lunch was uneventful but I was still feeling week. It was like the food was having no effect. I drudged on.
Sometime around sunset I found myself alone, weak, and tired. I fell to the ground, completely involuntarily, and started shaking. What was my body doing? What was going on? I drank water and just sat there. I started to cry, pray, and then to realize that no matter what I couldn't panic. Something told me to eat. I slowly munched on some crackers, regained my strength, and lasted a few more miles when my buddies caught up with me.
As we sat and ate together someone offered me some trail mix. After I had a handful, something amazing happened. I felt a wonderful, salt induced charge. That was it. Salt! I hadn't eaten enough for my body to function. In fact, as I started looking through my pack, I didn't have a lot of the food that usually kept me alive. That's when I realized:
LESSON #1: Skinny people need different food than their fat friends require to keep themselves alive.
Day 3, 15 Miles: That morning I traded as much oatmeal as I could for anything that contained salt. After we got on the trail a second concern started to weigh on me. I didn't have enough food.
I had breakfast, some grits I got from another hiker, and was still hungry. I can now say I know what it is like to beg for food. I asked every day hiker that passed if they had any leftovers. Even school children were fair game when we stopped at a public attraction to eat our lunch. All of this effort yielded one Power Bar and a lot of nasty looks.
Rounding the Bend
Defeated I walked on wondering how I was going to make it. Three of the guys were ahead of me because they had hitchhiked after being left behind the day before. As I continued on I saw those three heading my direction. They were giving up.
Tired of the long days and blisters on their feet they had decided to hitchhike home. Instantly my eyes darted to their bags. "You guys wouldn't happen to have any food left would you?"
Two snickers bars, a quarter of a block of cheese, and a half pound of beef jerky later, I was jumping down one mountain and up another.
LESSON #2: Skinny people need more food than their fat friends require to keep themselves alive.
Day 4, 21 Miles: That previous day I had captured a jar of peanut butter, a bag of beef jerky, a 3-pack of Snickers bars, trail mix, crackers, and a block of cheese. This and only this sustained me through the last day. The plan had been to hike the 21 miles in two days but Joe had decided to push through. What a day.
I was the last of four to arrive at the end of the trail. It was the conclusion of our trip and I wanted to do nothing but remain motionless on the cold, concrete curb of the road. Insisting that I take a shower so as not to stink up the pickup vehicle, Joe and the remaining two hikers gagged as they saw me take off my shirt and reveal what was left of my body.
LESSON #3: Fat people don't like to see really, really skinny people naked.
We capped off our trip with a visit to the Waffle House later that evening. I've never had such a fulfilling meal in my life. Joe even threw in a few bucks to help fatten me up.