Some days it is hard to do anything the normal way. I split my pants. That’s common enough; but I split these pants down the front, not in the most embarrassing way, but from waist to knee. I think that takes a special talent, or is a good example of finding the limits of frugality.
There’s always a story behind the story, but this is only a blog post so I’ll simply say that my plans for an overnight backpacking visit to the site of my third book, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla, were diverted by a long ferry line and a bout of impatience. I needed a vacation and sitting in a ferry line for hours wasn’t the way to start. Instead, I turned around and decided to visit the site of my next photo series, Twelve Months at Fort Ebey. I even had everything I needed for an overnight in the backcountry. Why not stay in Ebey’s campground and get sunset and sunrise photos (assuming I didn’t sleep in.)
Get lucky. Get a campsite beside the trail to the tall bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet (hmm, just realized I can also mention an earlier book, Twelve Months at Admiralty Head), and begin setting up the most minimalist setup. RVs were there. People using truck dollies to cart in supplies. Cars sprouting bicycles and stuff. I had a tent and luxuriously used one corner of the picnic as I sorted out tent poles. Minimalism.
That’s when I noticed the rip. It felt airy, which is fine in the heat, but my pant leg had split as high as my waist, which meant other people could see my underwear. Alas, but I carry spares for many things, including clothes. Doh! I did have another pair of cargo hiking pants with the zip-off legs, but to save weight I left behind half, the wrong half. I had spare leggings. The shorts portion was back home, safe from my mishaps. Sigh. OK. Well, I carry a sewing kit so get to stitching, and I did, and I only had enough to stitch up about half the rip.
Walking around the park with half-ripped pants is not an appealing image. I did enough to get my photos, but mostly I hung around my campsite. If I desperately needed pants I could drive home and back in a couple of hours, but that just seemed silly. Half-ripped pants seemed silly too (but evidently fashionable?), so I opened a book and a backpackable bottle of wine and relaxed.
No problem, really.
Actually a bit of a celebration.
The pants that ripped were at least twenty years old, maybe thirty. That’s an accomplishment. They were more barely threads than threadbare, but for decades they’d traveled with me on hikes, bikes, and international trips. They had history. They also represented frugality.
They were middle-range pants, not cheap, but not superlative. Cargo shorts with zip-off leggings that were excellent for those trips. Amortize it out and their usage was pennies per trip. Lately my jeans barely last a few years, and they don’t get that same level of abuse. Jeans are heavier while also being less reliable. Jeans are also less accommodating to the weather. Those hiking pants had been through heat, rain, snow, you know – real weather. I’d clambered across fallen trees and one time was straddling a snow bridge while my feet dangled over a bunch of empty.
I didn’t conduct a memorial service for them. They’ll be thrown into the trash soon because they aren’t good for turning into cleaning rags. They have, however, brought to mind those trips. Many memories from an accidentally interesting life.
And then I looked around at many of the things I bought when I was hiking almost every weekend. I’ve worn through boots at a rate of about one pair per decade. My sleeping bag is thirty years old. I cold-camp, which means I no longer cook my food. There’s no real need. Water filters get clogged, but not as often as I expected. Water bottles rarely break, anymore. Headlamps are getting better, LEDs in incandescents out. My favorite foam cushion broke (another story), but they don’t make them anymore (something the Help Desk agreed as a bad idea.) My compass is the same. Same for my pocket monocular.
Hiking and camping look expensive when the pieces are totalled up, but like with most things, divide the cost by the number of times it is used, or the years it survives and the effective cost comes down – IF you can afford it in the first place. #NotAGiven
Things that last can be expensive, but just because something is expensive does not mean it is going to last. There’s that tricky balance. I’m glad it has worked as well as it has for me.
Hiking is not just about the cost.
Cost benefit analyses use both words: cost, benefit.
I just wrote hundreds of words about the costs of hiking, but I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about the benefits. Almost all of my books (so far) involve hiking, skiing, bicycling, and basically moving across the planet by moving my legs. (Check out my Amazon and Fine Art America online stores for the results.) I suspect many of my health issues are because my finances have been so difficult for the last few years that I haven’t had the time nor the money to hike, ski, and bicycle. I look forward to getting back into something like that shape, not to reclaim youth but to at least reclaim my access to nature.
A friend on Twitter said; “Adventure sure seems to follow you around, Tom.” – Adel Brown; to whom I replied; “I also think that everyone leads interesting lives,…” For some reason I’ve just been fortunate enough to notice it. And as my split pair of pants shows, it doesn’t take much. Of course, I can’t recall an entire episode of Friends or Frazier. I barely know the names of Seattle’s professional sports teams. It is possible to live life as a spectator, but why do that when it doesn’t cost much to live your own life, ad-free? Bonus: you get livelier stories to tell.
Here’s a short panorama that was this trip’s benefit.
Gotta do some shopping sometime soon, or lose another inch or two of waistline. There’s an entire wardrobe of gear just waiting for me to get rid of the weight I’ve gained as a realtor and from dodging the pandemic’s bugs.
And since I mentioned being a realtor; gotta say because the state says so;
Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/.
And if I am going to mention that I might as well mention this:
Come on by to see the data behind the stories, and maybe share your stories, too.
Freeland Library Thursday, Sept. 8, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM