I met a lot of characters in my 28 year career on the fire department. One of the more memorable (in a bad way) was a bald headed, opinionated, conversation domineering , fib-telling Dude nicknamed STAN.
He was the guy you couldn't top. If you caught a three-pound trout, he caught a five pound Brown on a one-pound test line. Ran a sub-18:00 Five Kilometer race? He won his age bracket in 15:30. Hiked a respectable summit? He scaled Everest with no oxygen. He couldn't be beat.
BTW: STAN translates to S--T! That Ain't Nothing!
So...on my recent backpack with Brad
and Max and Cassie (son and girlfriend) into the Big Ditch I was told a stranger (to me) would be joining us on the second night out of five. That's fine. Buddy of Brad should be OK by me.
On the second night, we were camped at Monument Creek. Brad and family were out exploring the tiny tributary. I was hanging out contemplating the rocks or reading. In other, words typical Grand Canyon activities for me. Out of the silence, I heard, "Brad! Brad! Where are you?"
I called out, "You must be #%#%. (That's my way of not indulging his real name). "Hi! I'm Jeff. Brad is out with his family looking around. Here's the campsite he picked for you. I'll go back to my site and let you set up. See you later."
Around dinner time, I rejoined the gang at the designated kitchen area of Brad's campsite. %#%# was in full story telling mode. It went sort of like this...
"In the beginning, I was born to poor yet humble parents. I worked my way through Harvard doing pizza deliveries on my tricycle. I got my Doctorate in Mathematics at the age of six..." and on and on it went.
Hmmm! This was going to be an interesting backpack trip.
A few days later, we all set off on a 15.5 mile amble from Monument Creek to Bright Angel campground. In all my years of hiking in the Grand Canyon, this would be my biggest mileage day ever. No matter how you spin it, that's more than a stroll to the neighborhood post office.
%#%#% charted out his game plan on where he would be and at what time. "I'll be on my way at 6:03 I'll pass Salt Creek at 7:13. I should be at Bright Angel by 2:08 give out take a minute. I'll be hiking at three-plus miles/Hour. You guys know what that's like. Don't you?"
I broke camp after my usual morning dawdle. I was fueled by my secret weapon. Two Starbucks shots of strong instant coffee. Pure grind your molars, quick striding energy. My plan was the standard one. Crank out as many miles as I could until the caffeine runs out; then arrive at my destination on fumes.
It was a beautiful day along the Tonto Plateau, flowers were out, the air was cool and crisp and the scenery was the usual Grand Canyon magnificent. After awhile I ran into Brad, Max and Cassie. They were moving at a loping just fine steady pace. All were well with these happy campers.
"Hi Guys! I'm nice and wired from the coffee. Who knows? Maybe I'll catch %#%#. That might quiet him down a bit."
They wished me luck.
After Salt Creek, I spied three backpackers. One was definitely the 6'5" #%#%#. When I approached I overheard a story. "Then there was that time I was physically removed from a Vegas casino. I guess I was doing too good a job at counting cards. Hey! I was only up $5,000 on the House!"
He was surprised to see me. "You are moving well! I'll try to keep up with you."
"Don't sweat it. No worries. Walk your own pace. I'm still lit up from the coffee. Enjoy your day. See you at Bright Angel."
My caffeine fix expired at Indian Gardens. There was still five miles to go. My pace became a relaxed mosey, with food and water breaks along the way.
On the Colorado River trail, I saw the familiar sight of the iconic Silver and Black bridges. I'm sure I was grinning. Once in camp, I found a suitable campsite and went to work on a bagel and cheese snack. A few minutes later, #%#%# strode in.
I nodded and said, "Long day. Strong work. I'm glad we're done."
"I dunno. I could've taken a break and been good for another five-ten miles."
I know I let out a audible sigh. There's no topping a STAN.
But Hey! It's the Grand freaking Canyon! It takes more than a STAN to muddle the experience. Besides, I was still hanging with my Bro from another Mo and his amazing family. All is good in the world (except I'm sick again!")
Moral of the blog? Don't be a backpacking blowhard.
Cheers from windy Kanab, UT,
It's an R&R day to try to get over this latest bout of sinuous infection. Yes, I'm on drugs too.