My friends and I drove down a dirt road out of the Sangre de Cristo Range after a two-night backpacking trip to an alpine lake and within the first 10 minutes of the drive, we had decided that we would head straight to the town of Salida, find burritos or sandwiches, then find ice cream, then buy coffee for the drive back to Denver.
Maybe you’ve experienced this type of thing before? You’ve spent two hours to two weeks away from civilization, and although it was lovely, man, is there some civilized shit you missed. As you walked down the trail back, silently trying to calculate how much further the trailhead was—that waterfall was about an hour up the trail when we walked in, so if I’m going downhill, it’s maybe a half-hour from the trailhead now, worst-case 40 minutes—and thinking about all the things you’re going to start doing as soon as you drop your pack. Including, but not limited to:
- taking off these damn shoes/boots and putting on flip flops
- pulling a beer out of a cooler in the back of the car and listening to the satisfying puff of foam as you open it and then pouring it directly into the back of your throat
- driving into the nearest town and finding the first cold beer available
- driving into the nearest town and finding the first cheeseburger available
- texting your loved ones to see if they’ve stayed alive and healthy while you’ve been out of cell phone range
- posting a photo to Instagram
- driving into the nearest town and finding a milkshake
- turning on the air conditioner in your car full-blast and putting your face in front of the nearest vent
- turning on the heater in your car full-blast and putting your face in front of the nearest vent
- taking a shower as soon as you get home
- taking a sink shower in the restroom of whatever restaurant, bar, or coffee shop you patronize first
These are elements of what I call “The Back-To-Civilization Buffet,” the mental list of all the things you miss when you’re on a trail or a peak or a climb—which you will devour in rapid succession as soon as you have an opportunity, with the fervor of a half-drunk vacationer who has just won a couple hundred bucks at the blackjack tables at the Bellagio and then hears that, what, they have all-you-can-eat crab legs in that room over there?
Be honest. You love the outdoors. But something happens when you’re out there, and you turn into a horrible, horrible monster who would destroy everything in its path to once again experience the things it believes are civilized: warm food prepared by someone else, cold beverages, 3G cellular coverage, open-toed footwear. You are irritable, cranky, ready to be done—essentially, underneath your calm exterior you are the Incredible Hulk, except instead of needing a massive dose of gamma rays to return to normal, you just need a beer and a plate of nachos.
All your friends are experiencing similar emotions out there on the trail, and if they’re not, it is your job to persuade them onto your train of thought. You can do this by saying things like:
- “There’s this one place in town that has really adequate cheeseburgers/burritos/nachos. It’s like 10 minutes from the trailhead.”
- “Sure is hot out here. Makes me think of how nice it would be to shove a waffle cone of mint chocolate chip ice cream into my face.”
- “Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick, I could really go for a beer.”
Minutes later, you will find yourself in an air-conditioned bar or restaurant, cramming fistfuls of nachos into your mouth and gulping refrigerated liquids, complete again. Until next time.