I had spent a year working towards the opening of a new business and had determined that a weekend hike would get me mentally prepared before opening day.I chose my father as a hiking partner. In his 55 years on the planet he had hiked the same amount of miles as my then infant child had hiked. But he was enthusiastic and I knew the time would be spent laughing as much as hiking.
We chose the Pine Mountain Trail in Georgia. How that weekend progressed and ended is another story. This one is more lighthearted.
In doing his research for our hike my father had garnered enough info to have chosen his souvenir ahead of time. He wanted a wooden walking stick Bilbo Baggins style. I never object to hobbit paraphernalia and planned to buy my own as well. You can even buy the medallion of the park you are visiting and hammer it on your stick like a badge of honor. It's a level above Cub Scouts but not quiet the Marines. I have since added 2 state parks to mine. My dad's stick currently has, and probably only ever will have, just the one.
We entered the shop and made a b-line for the barrel that held 10 or so hiking sticks ranging in size and color. Beautifully lacquered they varied in shade and presentation. Some had big knots that drew the eye instantly. They all had been shaved so smoothly that they looked as though they were made of faux wood.
We selected a few to try out. These were going to be snug in our hands for next two days and then some. I pictured myself hiking the AT and fighting bears with my trusty wooden Excalibur! When we hike alone, we shall not be alone. For the sticks shall also be with us. Giving aid to our weary legs and guiding us over rocks. Our sticks shall go where we go. Never complaining, the stick walks at your pace and if you put your ear close to it you can hear it whisper, "you can do it buddy. I believe in you". So needless to say we had to do a little sauntering around the shop and have hike like conversations to see if our sticks were the chosen ones. The hiker doesn't choose the stick, Mr. Jeremy. It’s not always clear why.
My father leaned on his one handed, then two handed. Ipretended to hold a beer while he spoke. We walked the store not unlike runway models. Although I'm 100% sure Victoria Secret models have never discussed the history of the Patagonia clothing line. We dodged guests and Park Rangers, one of which popped out of a door I didn't even know was there. We faked anger to see if the stick would increase our intimidation. It did not. We faked laughter so long that we actually started laughing. In the end we chose wisely.
Walking to the counter we picked up a couple of medallions and Pepsi-Colas. As I reached for my wallet the Park Ranger that had appeared during our runway show said, “That’ll be $8.” Math has never been my strong suite and let’s be honest, with the advent of technology, it’s basically obsolete… unless you’re a total dork. But this didn’t add up. I held out a $20 bill, the Ranger snatched it, made my change and had moved on before the last tumbler fell into place. We walked quietly back to the car puzzled. Then, caught up in the majesty of the park, I forgot all about it. Remember we are from Florida so the only hills we see have red ants inside them.
The trip ended and as we drove back I needed a piece of paper to wrap my gum in. I grabbed the receipt from the shop. I mulled it over and it hit my like lightning.
“Aha! I figured out why we were only charged for the medallions and Pepsi.”
“That Park Ranger that rang us up never saw us enter the store. When we were parading around the place with our sticks laughing like a couple of chuckle heads, he must have thought they were ours.”
It had to be true. I don’t know if they ever figured it out, but it was an honest mistake. Truth be told though, I felt a little like Keyser Soze.I had accidentally pulled off the heist of Pine Mountain Trail. I crossed the state line into Florida and breathed a sigh of relief. I snickered as the long arm of the law faded out of my rearview mirror. I drove away with my windows down in my car letting the air run through my fingers and thought,‘dang it feels good to be gangster.’
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