A Lighter View… go West, young man…but pack first

A Lighter View… go West, young man…but pack first

By By Karen M. Morris, Freelance Writer

My husband always dreamed of going out West to experience high adventure. He envisioned himself hiking and backpacking through rugged, mountainous terrain. Unable to follow his dream, he did the next best thing … he sent our son, Morry.

To prepare for the trip, Morry was fitted with boots, rain gear, and a top loading backpack with an external frame called The Goliath. He spent the next two months breaking in his boots and learning how to treat blisters. Rain gear was tested in the shower, and weights were added to his pack to simulate a load. He even restricted his diet to freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, after discovering they tasted better than my cooking.

Then came packing day. Funny, isn’t it, how something that should be quick and easy can turn out to be longer and more painful than rehab after knee surgery?

Our packing strategy was to lay everything out on the floor and then check off the items as we put them in the backpack. Wayne called out the item. Morry found it and handed it to me. And then, I put it in a plastic sack and sucked all the air out of the bag with a straw. This was a foolproof plan until the cat grabbed our only straw and lost it under the couch. After that, we went into meltdown.

Morry refused to take his bright orange poncho. He said it made him look like a tropical fruit he’d seen on an underwear ad. When I found only one pair of underwear packed, Morry told me not to worry … he was wearing a spare pair. Yep, that’s plenty for a three-week trip. It’s not like he’s going off to college for four years.

Morry bought hiking pants that you could pack by turning them inside out and stuffing them inside their own pockets. The man at the sporting goods store called them a revolutionary technological breakthrough. I wonder what he’d call my dirty laundry. Avant-garde? I don’t have to do anything, and it shows up already prepackaged wrong side out and balled up in a knot.

Morry tried for 45 minutes to pack one set of shorts. I kept telling him to let me do it before he broke them. He refused. Finally, he got the pants packed along with his shoelaces, and then he promptly ripped the zipper closing it.

“Where are the water containers?” Wayne asked, checking the flashlights for batteries.

“I loaned them to the Landis to take to Utah.”

“What’s Morry supposed to do? Walk from New Mexico to Utah every time he gets thirsty?”

“I don’t like your tone. What do you want me to do? Report the Landis to Americas Most Wanted?”

“Polypropylene socks,” Wayne continued.

“Are these them?” I asked matching up a pair of brown wool socks.

“No, those would be ‘wool socks’. The polypropylene are ultra thin and blue.”

“They’re in my sock drawer,” I replied sheepishly. “There weren’t any logos, and they were aqua they could’ve passed for mine.”

Morry was sent to retrieve the socks and get two rag washcloths to pack. Twenty minutes later, he returned with a pair of slippers, two new face cloths and eating one of those freeze-dried meals. I thought I’d trained him better. The two “good” washcloths are for company. The stacks of rags are what we use.

“Where’s the knife?” Wayne shouted.

“Good Lord, Wayne,” I gasped. “It was a mistake. The boy got confused.”

“Pocket knife, Karen, pocket knife.”

Things got worse. I put address labels over the lenses on the disposable cameras. The mess kit was missing everything but the carrying bag, and the self-inflating mattress had suffered a fatal flat. I tried fixing it with nail polish, and now it’s permanently stuck to the carpet.

We packed the rain gear and first aid kit at the bottom of the backpack … underneath everything. Candy bars and snacks were put in the outer side pockets for emergency access. And, surprise, surprise … there wasn’t any room for a toothbrush. I ordered Morry to “make room”.

“I’ll have to leave a set of underwear behind,” he smiled.

“I don’t care if you leave all your clothes behind and run around like “nature boy” making clicks and grunts,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “I didn’t give up a trip to Hawaii and give all that money to your orthodontist so your teeth could fall out.”

Finally, everything was packed. Or at least nothing was left on the floor. “Bad news,” Wayne announced. “The flashlight batteries are dead.”

“What’s Morry going to do?” I asked, shaking the batteries. “The stores are closed.”

“There’s only one thing he can do,” Wayne replied somberly. “He’ll have to borrow some batteries from the Landis when he walks to Utah for water.”

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