MaryLou wore a headlamp to book club.

Didn’t think about it at first, I was too busy diving at Kim’s deviled eggs.

Why did Marylou wear a headlamp? This is a good deviled egg. And a bandana around her neck? Maybe I’ll have a third deviled egg. Eggs have to be better for me than Kim’s apple pie.

We had read Cheryl Strayed’s hugely popular memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and MaryLou came in costume.

But more than a costume, more than show and tell.

I do love my book-club friends.

And MaryLou wasn’t even the moderator, Monique was.

We all agreed that the young Cheryl Strayed was both incredibly stupid and incredibly lucky. She didn’t even try her hiking boots before the trip, and wrecked her stove by using the wrong fuel first time she used it. “The guy from Into the Wild wasn’t nearly as stupid and he died!” said Kathy.

“Here’s my first aid kit,” said MaryLou, “Empty, because all the Band-aids blew out of  Cheryl’s first aid kit the first time she opened it.”

Cheryl Strayed did her Pacific Coast Trail hike in 1995 and hiking technology has changed as dramatically as other technology. “This is the same pump that Cheryl used to pump her water.” We had all shivered at the squirrely leering guys who mooched on her pump and clogged it up.

“The batteries are out on my headlamp,” said MaryLou, “since Cheryl was always running


Old school pump for backpacking.

out of batteries.

“I lived for months out of this pack,” said MaryLou. “Spent three months in Europe after I graduated college. And like Cheryl’s, it was way too heavy. By the end of my trip it weighed 80 pounds because I kept buying things, Sure I can fit another sweater in here.” She pointed at one of the pack’s external pockets. “I’ve brought the same books she did,” MaryLou pulled a Michener novel and a poetry collection from the pack. “But THESE,” she also pulled out lovingly-battered copies of, “The Complete Walker and Thousand-Mile Summer by Colin Fletcher are the old-school hiking books.

“Here’s my old sleeping mat.” Her mess kit was even older school. “The thing about camping gear is that if you take care it, it never wears out. The newer stuff is lighter, but the old stuff still works.”

MaryLou also had two pennies in her pocket, all the money Cheryl Strayed had to her name for miles and miles of hiking.

“When I did recruiting for the law firm, we’d invite summer associates to go backpacking. They had to accept of course.

“One fellow, who had just fabulous grades and scores, asked me on the trail to go fill up his water bottle. I pointed to the lake. The guy was just shocked when he didn’t get an offer. No one who was on that backpacking trip wanted him as part of the team. You learn a lot about people backpacking.”


Hiking classics by Colin Fletcher

I, too, had show-and-tell. During her Wild adventure Cheryl Strayed lost six toenails.

My most recent toenail adventure was after an August hike. Thought I’d managed to save them, but nope, the nails just came off both big toes.

None of the gals wanted even a peek at my toes.

About Karen Ray

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