Busy Trail

Today I hiked through an airport.

I wove in and out of all the other hikers, dodging those that were PDA distracted, and stepping aside for the four wheeled carry-ons that seem to wheel out and away from their masters with a mind of their own.  These are commonly encountered hazards on these types of hikes.

The trail was smooth and hard, with a slight incline just after security, estimated at 3 feet – gentle to moderate.  Conditions were relatively dry, so no traction devices were needed.  I was careful, constantly looking right and left, for others entering from intersecting trails and shelters – Starbucks, Au Bon, Newsfeed, Terminal B, etc.  Day hikers were in abundance on this busy travel Monday.

TSA back country guards were as “joyful” as always, pretending not to hear me say good morning, or scowling at me as they listened for a hint of sarcasm or condescension.  Although I have never witnessed the behavior, they must receive constant abuse from Hikers, to invoke such a defensive and cynical reaction.

TSA Pre-check was quick and pleasant – mostly because I didn’t have to disrobe, stretch, and tear apart my luggage, in order to proceed.  I’m sure we are only a few years away from walking through scanners and facial recognition devices that will eliminate the burden of these airport trails.  Embedded micro-chips will ensure our identities no matter where we travel, and I will finally be able to realize my dream of living off the grid.

The highlight of the morning was “the latte.”  One of the challenges of hiking has always been a good hot caffeinated “coffee like” beverage, upon dragging oneself from a toasty sleeping bag, and this morning was no exception. It was made even more challenging by having to go to four different locations to pick up the beverage (after waiting 15 minutes) to retrieve a napkin, find sweetener, and finally to pay.  They could clearly benefit from clear blue blazing.

Waiting to pass through the boarding tunnel is also always a pleasant experience.  Anxiety increases as the time draws near.  Day hikers jostle each other, frantic to enter the shelter first so they can get overhead space.  The trail maintainer announces two packs only, and I watch the maintainer’s body language. Will this one make me try and cram my small bag into a larger stuff sack, or pretend not to notice it as I hang it on the back of my backpack.  If I’m business or first, they are oblivious, unless new and untrained in elite service methods.  Any other loading zones are a toss up, and really just depend on the “mood.”

We enter the shelter and I watch as hikers shove clothing and small bags onto the small over hangs.  These are the day hikers.  They are typically followed by the section and thru-hikers that shove everything to the side or remove the small articles, replace with their packs, and then crumple and shove the small bags and clothing back in around the large backpacks.  This is often followed by indignant fussing from the day hikers, who feel their rain jackets and small stuff sacks should take priority over the packs, and are concerned they may be scratched.  The trail maintainer often intervenes before things get “interesting.”

I am fortunate to be upgraded to the lower level platform, and watch as the other hikers eat the “scarey breakfasts” offered by the “angry to be waiting on lower platform level hikers” trail maintainers.  A small white sausage, micro-waved omelet, and fruit surely out of temp for several hours, is served to the hiker next to me.  The trail maintainer asks him if he would like a croissant.  He makes the mistake of asking for juice instead.  “Would you like a CROISSANT.”  It is really not a question at this point.  I think they are more friendly on the upper deck, where poor shelter etiquette is expected and accepted.

The trail maintainer passes out my Declaration form, where I enter my information for “statistical purposes.”  Again, this will be unnecessary in the not too distant future, with the embedded micro-chip.  I catch the maintainer frowning as I place the form in the sleeve in front of me, and I feel my blood pressure rise slightly as I try to determine what rule of etiquette I have violated.  Should I hold it until we land, or take it to the now scowling maintainer?  I settle on a big grin in his general direction, and just grasp the form in my now slightly damp fingers.

As we make our third sharp turn, I wonder if pilots are like me on a power boat.  Do they get bored after being on auto-pilot for an hour or so, and make a few little weaves and turns, in and out of the currents – under the guise of aligning for landing?  Probably not, but I still wonder as we slide into our forth turn.  There must be a lot of air traffic this morning.  I press my eyes to the scratchy glass window and see nothing.

The landing is good, and as the gate opens, hikers begin to rise and stretch.  It will be good to continue the trek.sc

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