We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking. -- Finis Mitchell

The tale of the Crazy Lady

There are many things that go bump in the night. And living in Washington, there is good reason to be scared when you're young and camping in the woods. You never know what might be out there. A wolf, a bear, big foot or even worse....the crazy lady.

In order for you to understand the tale of the crazy lady, I must first explain the setting. Please note that this is a true story. We were four 12 year old boy scouts, myself, my best buddy Alex, Scoot (that wasn't his real name, but that's a whole other story) and Evan Wortman, or EW. We were backpacking from Chinook Pass to White Pass. Joining us was our scoutmaster, Scoutmaster Ratchet and my brother Cooper.

"How long have we been out here?" Scoot asks as we plod along the trail.
"It's been four days," EW replies.
"Wow, four days without TV. That's got to be some sorta' record!" Scoot yells excited.
"I once read a book about how there are these people that live outside and never watch TV," EW tells us.
"Yeah," Alex says, "they're called bums."
"No seriously!" Ew exclaims. "It was amazing!"
"I find it more amazing that you read a book," I add.
EW glances my way and goes to give me a shove. I step back and he looses his footing. Before he can catch himself, the weight of his backpack causes him to fall on his back. He's high-centered and failing about like a....
"TURTLE!" Alex yells.

In backpacking there are two terms for when a backpacker falls. One is ostrich. For this the backpacker looses his footing and falls forward, often smacking his forehead on the ground in front of him. Thus, the ostrich. The second is when a backpacker falls backward and the weight of his pack carries him until he is stuck on his back, legs flailing about trying to get up. And thus, the turtle.

"Oh man!" Scoot shouts. "That was awesome!"
"I don't think it was awesome," EW squeaks as we help him up.
"Hilarious," Alex says as we continue hiking down the trail.

We weren't sure how we had put distance between ourselves and Scoutmaster Ratchet and Cooper. So we decided that maybe we should wait up.

"There is a lake not too far ahead," Alex says while reading the map.
"We can wait for them there," Scoot adds.

A little ways down the trail we found the lake. And it was certainly nothing to brag about. Muck and algae covered the outer edges and mosquitoes created a black cloud around the lake.

"I sure hope they aren't far behind," Alex says and swats a mosquito on his arm.
"Yeah, the water is gross and the bugs are awful!" EW shouts. "Could this lake get any worse?"

As if on cue from that comment "she" came around the corner. A stout, middle-aged woman with curly hair and dark sunglasses. Now that appearance alone wasn't enough to catch our attention, but rather what she was doing. She had her backpack on, and we could tell it was heavy, and in each hand, was a bulging suitcase.

"Excuse me boys!" the woman yells glancing about the four of us. "Where is the drinking fountain!?!"
"Ummm... seeing as how we are about 16 miles from the closest trail head, there isn't one," I tell her.
"WHAT!?! Well then where do I drink water?!?!" She yells.
"We get our water from the lake," Scoot says timidly.
"Lake? Where's the lake?" She asks.
"Right there," EW says pointing to his left. "We're standing right next to it."
"Great! I love water!!!" She yells.

Droping her suitcases and backpack, she heads to the water.

"Did you notice the suitcases?" Scoot asks.
"Yes," I reply. "Something is not right with that lady."
"A crazy lady," Alex whispers.
"Do you think she has a filter?" EW asks.
"Probably not, let's go check," I say.
"What do you think are in the suitcases?" Scoot asks as we head toward the lady.
"Probably clothes," Alex replys. "Or human heads."
"Or birdseed," I add.
"Birdseed?" the other three exclaim.
"Well, you've seen her, would you put it past her?" I ask.
"No, I guess you are right," Scoot says under his breath.

In front of us is the woman, or rather the crazy lady. She is up to her armpits in almost the middle lake, filling up a water bottle.

"Do you have a filter?" Alex shouts to her.
"A filter!?!" She yells. "What would I need one of those for?!?!"
"Because the water is not healthy to drink," Alex yells back.
"Nope!" She screams. "Ain't got one of those!"
"She's got a full backpack and two suitcases, but no filter," EW whispers to us. "Maybe she is crazy."
"Well you can't drink that water!" I yell to her. "Come back out and we'll give you some of our good water!"

She waddles up out of the lake and heads back to camp with us. After we've filled her water bottle with clean water, she sips at it and starts asking us questions.

"Did you boys ride horses in?" She asks.
"No, we hiked," I say.
"Oh," she replys. "I saw a lot of horse prints on the trail. Did you ride elk in?"
"No elk," I say. "We hiked in."
"Oh," she says. "Cause I saw a lot of elk prints on the trail too. Have you ever ridden an elk?"
"Can't say that I have. Have you?"
"No, always wanted too. But just never had the time to learn. Are you lost?"
"No, we know right where we are. We have a map. I'm beginning to think you're lost though."
"A map! You have a map! Can I look at it?"
"Sure," I say and go to grab the map.

As I open it she stares down in anticipation. I show her the trail and where we currently were at.

"And where is Utah?" She asks.
"Well, this is only a map of this trail, so Utah is not on it," I say.
"Have you ever been to Utah?"
"Yes I have."
"I am thinking about hiking there."
"Well good luck."
"Can I have your map to get there?"
"Well, it won't help you get there. But sure. We have a spare."

She grasps the map like I just gave her gold.

Moments later Cooper and Scoutmaster Ratchet show up. We grab our backpacks and start heading for the trail.

"It was nice to meet you," I say to the crazy lady. "We're leaving now. Have a good hike and remember, don't drink the water unpurified."
"I'm hiking to Utah!" She screams. She runs to her gear, throws her backpack on, picks up her suitcases and runs off into the bushes, then pops back out. Looks back at us and runs off down the trail.

"What was that all about?" Scoutmaster Ratchet asks looking at us in disbelief.
"It's a very long story," Alex replys. "But let's start hiking. Thankgoodness we're heading the other way from that lady. And let's pick up the pace a bit."
"What if she follows us?" Scoot asks.
"She won't," EW says. "She's hiking to Utah."

We all share a quick, almost nervous laugh and exchange glances.

As we start heading down the trail Scoot hollars.

"Wait! Wait!"

We all turn around expecting to be staring at the crazy lady again.

"We forgot to get our elk to ride out," he says with a big grin.

This time the laughs were real as we started back on our way.

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