The night before embarking on an outdoor adventure can be stressful. You want to make sure everything is packed. You worry about your physical fitness. You want to get enough sleep.
My advice: get wasted.
Who knows, maybe you’re not coming back?
Of course it’s dumb. You get dehydrated. You’re hungover. It makes the first day of hiking miserable. But it eradicates the jitters, puts you to sleep and builds team morale.
It all started 15 years ago. That’s when four Eagle scouts set off on their first backpacking trip without adult supervision.
It was 1997. We were 18. We had cars, girls and high school diplomas. The whole world was in front of us. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t do.
Except prepare for a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail.
Our trek was supposed to be four nights, but we cut it to three because we were so miserable. This is why:
We brought one tent for all four of us. It was one of those large 6-person family tents you set up at George Wyth Park. Also, since we were in North Carolina, we thought it was going to be really hot. We didn’t need to check the weather beforehand, we just knew. So we brought two sleeping bags and two sheets – no sleeping pads or pillows.
Well, no matter where you are, when you are sleeping in the mountains, it gets cold at night. Freezing cold.
Our third mistake? We didn’t plan for water. According to our map, there was supposed to be a stream next to our first campsite. However, it was printed as a blue dotted line, which means the stream is seasonal. Of course we were there during the season when the stream was dried up. On our first day we had to hike an extra two miles to find a trickle of water in a gully on the side of the mountain. A newt literally swam into our water bottle. W fished out the newt and kept the water.
Fourthly, we packed the tent, sleeping bags and larger equipment into one backpack. We stuffed the second backpack with clothes, and the third was filled with food and cooking utensils.
Our fourth backpack? It was filled with booze. We had bottles of everything an 18-year-old thinks he will drink. Captain Morgan. Southern Comfort. Smirnoff. Peach Schnapps. 99 Bananas.
It was as if we thought we were going to find a sorority party at the top of the mountain.
And do you wanna know how much we drank?
Between the four of us badass Boy Scouts, we drank two shots in three nights. And we carried 8 full bottles of booze up and down the goddamn Appalachian Mountains.
Here it is, 2012, about 1,000 hiking miles later, and I still haven’t learned my lesson.
In the summer of 2006 four of us drove to Colorado to go backpacking in the Rockies with our friend Ogre. This time I brought along my sister, who is also a Philmont ranger and experienced hiker.
Unfortunately for Elissa, she was camping with a group of dipshits.
Ogre told us he had hiked the route before. What he failed to tell us was that he had only hiked the last three miles. The easy three miles. On the first day he took us seven miles straight up the mountain. The second day was another 12 miles and we slept in the snow 12,000 feet above sea level. Not to mention we lost two hikers along the way (to our credit, we did find them).
Elissa literally fainted from the stress.
Was booze involved? Yes.
The night before we left, Ogre took us out to one of the local haunts in Eagle. We were just going to go for some pizza and a few beers. However, it happened to be karaoke night.
Eight pitchers and four Johnny Cash covers later, it was closing time and we were hammered.
And we had to get up three hours later to hike 11 miles into the Rockies.
We didn’t make it the entire 11 miles. About four miles into the hike, Ogre started finding “good camp sites” in any area that looked sort of flat, despite the fact there was three feet of snow, large rocks and more brush than a Japanese porno.
Every 50 feet, he would come to a slow stop, sigh heavily, and say, “This looks like a good spot.” At first Elissa and I would patronize him. Saying, “Yeah, that could work, but let’s go a little further.”
After about the sixth time, we just looked at him silently, turned around and kept walking.
It was a great trip.
In June 2009 Jeff Bell and I hiked for six days on the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas. That first day of hiking I felt like Sisyphus, carrying sacks of potatoes up Mount Olympus.
The main reason was I was 30 pounds over weight.
But also, alcohol was involved.
I was living in Iowa at the time, and it was a 9 hour drive to the Ozarks. I left for my solo drive at 5 a.m. The night before my band played a show, and I got to bed at 3 a.m.
The drive to Arkansas surprisingly wasn’t that bad. However, the drive to the top of the mountain was brutal. I was driving my 2000 Honda Accord and Jeff was driving a 1982 Datsun. Not off-road vehicles.
They were barely “on-road” vehicles.
At the top of the mountain, Jeff’s Datsun died.
What did we do? Got drunk.
We’ll worry about it in the morning.
This turned out to be the correct solution. The next morning, the Datsun started right up and we were able to drive it to the end of the trail. We dropped off my Honda in the middle of the trail, filled with food reserves, and we paid for a ride back to the beginning of the trail.
Here is a link to a video of the trip.
We pounded a beer before heading out. Jeff carried a 6-pack of Coors Light tallboys and a cantelope.
However, the trail was virtually non-existent. It was overgrown with shoulder-high weeds. The ticks were swarming, and I ended up with a poison ivy rash that engulfed both legs.
I swear the hills were 90 degrees straight up.
It did improve after the first day. We met up with Courtney on day 3. The trail cleared up. And we merged into civilizationg with VIP passes to the Wakarusa Music Festival.
That’s when we really got drunk.
Which leads us to present day.
I am married now and know better.
My lovely wife Lisa and I hiked Mount Fuji this past weekend. We took it seriously. We did a practice hike on Mount Takao. We packed smart, bringing the right amount of clothes, water and food. We even managed our sleep schedule a week in advance, knowing we were going to get up at sunrise to start our hike.
But we didn’t plan on the wild card – Lisa’s brother Yuichi.
Yuichi is a beast. He is in phenomenal shape. He could have carried a boat to the top of Mount Fuji and sailed in the lava at the bottom of the crater.
We stayed in a hotel near Mount Fuji the night before our hike. I figured we would go out for dinner, have a couple of beers to calm down and have a good night sleep.
Yuichi was there to party. After a bottle of wine at dinner, we finished our night in the hotel room, three tall boys later.
I slept like a log, but poor Lisa woke up at 4 a.m., nervous for the hike.
She and Yuichi had attempted to hike Mount Fuji before, but Lisa got too sick along the way and they had to turn back 50 meters from the summit.
But this time we made it. Even though we were slightly hung over, even though the trail only went one direction – up, and despite the drizzly weather, we climbed Mount Fuji.
It wasn’t pretty, but I would do it the same way all over again.