Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Celebrity on the Trail!

June 5: I hiked most of the afternoon without seeing anyone. Captain Bivy is older and retired and hikes slow, while Biscuit was still sleeping in camp when I left in the morning. I had to push at least 18.8 miles today to the next water source. Water was scarce on this section of trail, and 18.8 miles through hot temperatures was no easy feat. I filled up with five liters of water and headed out.

Not much to report about the trail itself. It finally started getting away from the windmills that seemed to follow the trail for the last several days. Shade became a bit more common as the trail wound through groves of trees, and I even spotted two deer. I've seen a lot of deer over the years, but remarkably few so far along the PCT. In fact, this was only the second and third deer I've seen on my whole hike.

Once again, I stopped for a long lunch break to beat the heat of the noon-time temperatures, this time stopping five minutes before noon under a shady tree at the top of a hill providing a slight breeze. It was a wonderful location, and I ate lunch, read a magazine, and napped. A little after 2:30, Sticky Fingers caught up with me on the trail, and she sat down to rest and chat awhile. She, I learned, had camped at a "big tree" further back on the trail and had already done a good ten miles more than I had that day. Well, aren't I lazy!

I've crossed paths with Sticky Fingers several times over the past few weeks. The first time I met her was just before Big Bear, at the food cache that included the couch on the side of the trail, but she was hiking with a larger group and I don't think we said anything more beyond introductions.

Then we shared a tent at the Saufleys in Agua Dulce, where we talked a bit longer, but not more than about fifteen minutes or so about food and other trail topics of little interest.

The third time I met her was in Mojave, when she talked with Tradja, Jess, Go-Go, and myself for a short time.

About the only thing I learned about her was that she was called Sticky Fingers because she always had her hand in a bag of snacks which made her fingers sticky. (Originally, I assumed it must have been because she was caught stealing something!)

All together, I don't think I spent more than a half hour talking to Sticky Fingers, so I didn't really know much of anything about her, and I still didn't. But she has a way about her, that makes you feel like slowing down and talking to her. Like she's interested in everything and everyone around her, and is very gregarious. A lot of hikers, myself included, are generally quiet introverts, but she'll draw you out to talk. Friendly and curious. Though often times, she's hiking so fast, you don't actually get much time to talk with her.

We talked for about a half hour sitting at the top of the hill, which was nice, but again, we really didn't talk about anything particularly interesting, and at 3:00, I finally put on my shoes ready to hit the trail again. I planned to stop for three hours, until 3:00, and it was time to start hiking again. Sticky Fingers put on her shoes and started hiking as well, but I hiked considerably faster than she did. Perhaps the fact that I was three hours rested and had ten miles fewer miles on my shoes that day was part of the fact, but no big deal. Everyone hikes their own hike, right?

I reached the turnoff for the next water source, a spring about 100 yards off the trail. I stopped to check my water level. The next water source was a creek, just 2.2 miles ahead, so I didn't really need much for that next source, and after checking the water I had, I felt it was enough to get me to the creek. No need to hike 100 yards off trail to get to the spring. But I also looked at the time, and noticed that at the rate I was going, I'd reach the creek--my intended destination for the night--by 5:30 that afternoon. Twenty miles, a three hour lunch break, and I'd still get into camp way too early.

I sat down. Maybe I should walk further? But no, I was planning to meet Amanda at Walker Pass in a few days. I can't get there too early. I couldn't be putting on big miles. I was already hiking much too fast. So I sat down and rested a bit, even though I didn't really need it.

Sticky Fingers caught up with me again, and she checked her water levels, and had way too much water. She took out her pot and started cooking dinner, hungry after hiking nearly 30 miles already that day. (Overachiever!) So we started talking some more, and I found out a lot of very interesting stuff about Sticky Fingers.

In certain circles, she's quite the celebrity. In particular, she's made quite a name for herself among those obsessed with the Titanic. She wrote a little book about the sinking of the Titanic, called What Really Sank the Titanic. I haven't read the book, but in a nutshell, she explained how she studied the rivets, what they were constructed of and how they were installed, and concluded that the Titanic sank so quickly, at least in part, because of the design and installation of the rivets. The New York Times ran a front page article about this latest forensic report about the sinking of the Titanic, which even landed her a guest appearance on the Colbert Report, saying that that was the hardest interview she's ever done. (Amanda and I watched her segment online, and Amanda's response was that he was tough on her. Said if it was her, she'd have been in tears saying, "I just want to talk about the rivets....") After that appearance, her name wound up in the IMDb and Wikipedia. Okay, I looked those up, and there's not a lot of information there, but it does make her a minor celebrity, at least in certain circles. I've never made it into either of those sources!

"There's not even a picture of me on my wikipedia page," she told me.

"Well," I said, as I took a photo of her, "I could change that...."

"Oh, God! No! Not like this!" =)

I don't know what she's worried about. Frankly, she's a very nice looking woman. She might have a thru-hiker smell on her, but that type of thing doesn't show through in an image.

Rivets seem to fascinate her, and she asked me if I had walked on the tube that makes up the aqueduct, apparently riveted by the rivets holding it together. She's probably the only person I've met who'd ever be interested in those rivets on the aqueduct. I just found them annoying to walk on, but didn't think much more beyond that.

So she told me about her experiences doing those sorts of things, and she's really quite a fascinating woman. She's not thru-hiking all the way to Canada--she still has a day job and is only section hiking the trail this year (a very large section, but still, only a section), and I said it was kind of annoying having to worry about paying quarterly estimated tax payments from the trail (something I have to worry about because of Atlas Quest), and she blinked.

"I forgot about that. Argh! I need to call my accountant!"

Well, not the end of the world. If she files it late, it's nothing that a little extra money to the IRS won't fix.

She finished eating dinner, and we walked an additional 2.2 miles to Cottonwood Creek where we set up camp for the night and continued talking about our lives. At the end of the night, I told her the story of Sam McGee and Casey at the Bat. The Casey at the Bat got a gasp from her at the end--I hadn't realized it, but she swears she had never heard that poem before and didn't expect Casey to strike out. She gasped when I finished, "...for mighty Casey has struck out."

"What, you seem surprised?"

"Poor Casey! I was surprised!"

Which amused me to no end. How could a red-blooded American have grown up without ever hearing the story of Casey at the bat?

"Well, don't worry. Casey had it coming. He was arrogant, and stupid. He got what he deserved." =)

It started getting dark, and Sticky Fingers went to sleep. I pulled out my Peek device and e-mailed Amanda: "Find book called What Really Sank the Titanic. Must read!" Actually, I didn't do that, because my Peek device didn't get service, but I wrote a note about it in my journal so I could try finding it later myself. =)

Sorry, Sticky Fingers. You'll need a new trail name now if you want to hike incognito next time around. ;o)

In August, I'll be participating with Amanda in the Washington Trail Association's Hike-a-Thon. If you haven't already, please consider sponsoring us. (Especially me!) The folks do great work helping to fix up and maintain trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and help make thru-hikes such as mine possible. If you enjoy reading this blog, consider giving something back to the trails that make it possible. Thanks!


Grumpy Grinch said...

"Older and retired and hikes slow"....WTF! You young whipper snappers should show more respect for your elders.


Doodle Bug said...

I checked Wikipedia just now. I can't believe that even after this blog entry you STILL don't have a Wikipedia page! :)

Unknown said...

God knows I miss your Sam McGee! Turns out it was on the middle school reading list for PageTurners last year (as recommended by various teachers and librarians) and I was the only person in the whole school that had heard the story! Still, I wish the kids could have heard it by the campfire the way you told it. Every kid should be scared out of their mind by a story told in the dark at least once in their lives. ;-)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I think her trail name should be:

Rosie the Riveter

And I've never heard the entire Casey at Bat story either.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers