6-22-16-Backpacking Grief

There are few things more enjoyable than sleeping under the stars. I don’t know the names of many heavenly bodies but there’s just something about looking at the Milky Way that takes my breath away. Even a slow night of stargazing is liable to treat you to a meteor shower. On a good night you may even spot a UFO. For years I have built campfires along the riverbanks of the Olympic Peninsula as a form of beacon to the UFO’s in an effort to communicate with intelligent life forms in space, after having failed in the attempt on earth.

Despite humiliating setbacks in this regard I was able to forge a lasting relationship with one of the other more intelligent fellow travelers co-habiting our fair planet. No I am not talking about the Sasquatch. She doesn’t write, she doesn’t call. I am referring to the Olympic Marmot. By studying the lifestyle of this unique rodent it’s easy to determine these are one of the most intelligent creatures in all creation.

They live in flowered alpine meadows with the most awesome territorial views spending most of the summer eating and playing and most of the year hibernating. True hibernation is rare state of torpor achieved by very few of the animal kingdom. I like to sleep though the winter while changing the channels on the television. That is not hibernation. Marmots, ground squirrels and members of Congress are able to achieve true hibernation by lowering their pulse and respiration to levels that would make a normal person brain dead. Which would explain a lot.

Unfortunately, in recent years the numbers of marmots have declined in the Olympics to the point where they are threatened, endangered or both. It has always been my dream to participate in the marmot survey to ensure a thriving future for these iconic rodents.

No one has written more extensively than I have about my pioneering theories of marmot survey techniques such as electro-shocking, paint-balling, hair removal, radio tracking, mini-cams and sound blasting that put me on the cutting edge of research into the secret lives of these fascinating and unique creatures. I have spent years studying the marmot’s language which is a series of sharp whistles. Each whistle conveys a unique message which taken together as a whole means the marmots are making fun of us.

It is and shall always be one of my proudest accomplishments to be accepted into the marmot’s burrow. That’s where the magic happens. This, like any other life-changing event involved focus, discipline and a lot of hard work. First, I stopped bathing. Then sat very still and grew my hair until I was furry enough to blend in with the marmots.

To study the marmots, you must first get to marmot country. This could involve backpacking. Of the many activities available in the recreational wonderland that is the Olympic Peninsula backpacking has to be the worst. In fact, backpacking would probably be outlawed as a form of torture by the Geneva Convention if not for the fact that it is self-inflicted.

There could be many reasons for this starting with the design of the human body. For the past few million years most of us have been walking upright most of the time. This is a unique evolutionary adaptation that combined with a large brain and an opposable thumb have allowed humans to achieve technological advances that make us the envy of the animal kingdom. That is until we put a backpack on. It is at this point we humans tend to fall over backwards.