Recently, as the weather’s grown sunny and warm, I decided to trip at the base of Mount Hood. One of the “three sisters”, and the Cascades.
I was there for three days, two nights, my reasoning being that if I was to make the long drive out there I may as well stay to soak it in, I have loads of camping gear I don’t use enough, and I wanted to get there a day in advance of the planned trip so I could get a feel for the area. Not keen to get lost someplace unfamiliar!
I chose a comfy little spot next to a creek. The water already clear, I nonetheless brought a Sawyer filter with me to remove viruses, bacteria, basically everything but the heavy metals.
As I couldn’t make a fire outside of an approved campground, I had with me a rocket stove to boil filtered water and easily a week’s worth of dehydrated foods.
You can spend $5-$12 per meal on Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry, i.e. the stuff targeted at backpackers, but dehydrated food is dehydrated food. I just got a bunch of stuff you can cook and hydrate by adding boiling water to from the dollar store.
I did wind up missing the “cooking meat over a fire” part of the experience, but then camping was really secondary to what I came out here to do. So I set everything up, scouted the area, cooked myself dinner and went to sleep.
I dosed 2mg 25C the next morning at 11am. Timed so that the ~5 hour trip would coincide with the warmest hours of the day. I meticulously plan outings.
That often makes the difference between a fun adventure and a miserable disaster. Only the person organizing a trip needs to plan anything, everybody else can just have fun, but for me planning is part of the fun.
I waited in my tent for a while as it was still cold and played some Super Troll Islands on my tablet using a bluetooth controller. Yes, I bring stuff like that with me. I picked the rom at random but man did I pick right.
The background constantly morphs, you’re a hairy little nudist maniac who runs around without pants colorizing the world, your little naked butt wiggles and your head’s on backwards when you climb ladders, your troll is constantly head-bobbing (the fuckin SUN does it too when you clear a stage!) you swim like a roided up Michael Phelps and you can eat whole enemies after throwing what I think is mustard at them. Also turn into a tornado occasionally, for mysterious videogame reasons.
Once you colorize everything around an area framed by ladders it transforms into a magical painting/portal with parallax depth to it. This whole game is a goddamn fever dream.
After I suddenly remembered what I meant to do today, I put that shit down and went looking for some of the landmarks I’d identified the day before as stuff likely to look cool in this state. The campsite was in a small wood dividing two immense grasslands strewn with mossy rocks.
The field was mind blowing. Vast, free, open. Inviting me to adventure. I had rousing orchestral music playing through my implant at this point, such that I felt like I was in some grand open world RPG.
But as I began exploring the field, I heard a nagging voice in the background. To better hear it, I turned the music off for a moment.
“Turn that garbage off.” I looked around for the source. In the past, I’ve encountered a sort of bossy, vivacious feminine embodiment of nature while in the woods. I’ll waste no time describing her here, my past trip reports do a serviceable job.
I’d had a falling out with her last time because I recently got a device implanted in my head to fix my hearing, which I also stream music through.
I didn’t anticipate she would lose her shit when she found out. Something about how I’m cheating evolution, and if I stay like this I am no longer a forest creature to her but something alien and unwanted. I never expected her to speak to me again.
“Is that you?” I waited, simply listening to the birdsong and wind. “Do you hear that?” She said. “That’s my music. While you’re out here, that’s what you’re going to listen to.” So, I left it off for the time being.
“Are you still mad?” The trees, clouds and grass were by this time doing their familiar dance. “I’m not happy. But I can’t hate you. I only ask that when you visit me, you disable that part of yourself. I want to be the one who decides what you see, hear and feel.”
I felt elated, even at such a small improvement. Sometimes children make decisions their mother doesn’t understand and finds appalling. But in the end she is still their mother, and still loves them. That’s how I figured it.
So, no music for this trip except for the sounds of nature. Which I appreciated like never before. Having granted her request, I felt her regard for me improve. Suddenly, nature began to come alive.
I don’t just mean her, but all of it. Everything was alive and had its own personality. Like a Rare game or a 1930s cartoon where hills and buildings have eyeballs and perpetually dance for some reason.
The first to appear was Hassan, the crab. I saw these squat shapes moving left to right and right to left in alternating bands, made out of the grass, receding into the distance. They looked very much like crabs walking sideways.
So my brain brought them to life. I focused on one of them, doing its funny side to side shimmy dance. “Craaaab, craaaab” it said. “Pardon me, crab” I said. He looked indignant. “My name is Hassan.”
“Oh, I’m sorry for assuming. Are you part of the trip? Will you teach me some important lesson about myself?” He replied “No, I’m just here. Doing crab stuff.” Hassan then broke ranks and began to follow me, taking an interest in what I was doing here.
I noticed from a particular spot I could see that the rocks were distributed in a serpentine path, where the grass was greenest, and lower than the rest of the field. I inferred it had once been a riverbed.
I thought about how geology is an intensely four dimensional field of study. Where we get the term “geological timescales” from. Where I stood right then would’ve killed me, the raging river sucking me under, some hundreds or thousands of years prior. And it may yet be a river again.
I admired the rocks for picking a spot and standing their ground even as the world changed dramatically around them. Robust, resilient, indifferent to the elements. “Man, rocks are cool dudes” I said aloud. They came to life just to say “We know.”
While finishing up in the field I came upon the most startling sight. A bush, on fire. Or what seemed to be fire, although the movement of things under such an influence can appear deceptively like flames. The picture does not capture the effect but should supply some idea as to why it looked that way to me.
I stood transfixed by it. I expected heat, and so felt it. The branches looked scorched black, yet the fire never fully consumed it. Like every other frickin’ thing that day, it came to life and began talking to me. Instructing me to write all of it down, too. I declined. Last time somebody did that, wars happened.
I felt like I was meeting her family, one by one. Being welcomed back in after a period of exile. As if to underscore this, I came upon the world’s coziest shade. THE COZIEST. Cannot stress that enough. Just look at this shit. Sheltering me lovingly beneath her arms.
I rested, having been out in the sun longer than I meant to. Hassan joined me, now dancing again. “Hassssaaaaan”he sang. “Hasssssaaaaaan”. I furrowed my brow. “You’re saying Hassan Hassan now? I thought you say ‘crab, crab’?”He shrugged. “Hassan is versatile.”
Once again a creature of nature, I regressed to a grasslands dwelling protohuman. Funny how frequently this stuff induces feelings of evolutionary regression in people. I pictured others in my tribe hunting bison, but I could hear the bison’s thoughts, not the peoples’.
“Where’s my bestie? She likes the same grass I do. Oh look, it’s those weird little assholes again. I hope they don-OW! Little assholes, Stop poking me! Little assholes, stop. Stop, little assholes”. Finally it gave a great heaving kick, sent one of them flying, and the rest scattered.
I reflected on the fact that, had I asked one of those protohumans to describe the perfect person, the result would not impress me. It’d be something like a tall, muscular protohuman with whatever they think attractive features are.
If I showed them a picture of a modern human they would most likely recoil at the bizarre monster and regard the prospect of their species eventually turning into mine with fear and disgust. I took it as a reminder to embrace change.
Not just of society or technology, but our very bodies and brains. Everyone who says they are comfortable with change nonetheless has somewhere they draw the line. But can we remain humans forever? Should we have remained pre-humans forever?
We can look back on ancestral forms, as we are now, and feel no regret for leaving those forms behind. Yet many today cling to the comfort and familiarity of their humanity when that, too, will someday be one of our ancestral forms.
I accidentally dunked my foot in the river on the way back and was reminded of the saying “A man never steps in the same river twice. It’s no longer the same river, nor the same man”. Very applicable to my train of thought right then.
After all, our atoms are completely replaced every seven years or so. We are not, therefore, those atoms but an intelligence which arises from their configuration. The atoms themselves are interchangeable. Intelligence can exist on many different substrates.
We’re an ever changing, self replenishing, evolutionary being. Like the burning bush. Being burnt away, yet renewing itself at the same rate. As our cells die, replaced with new ones.
“It is not the strongest, fastest or even smartest that survives, but the most adaptible.” The only unforgivable sin is to refuse change. There is no such thing as bad growth, even if it’s in strange, unfamiliar directions. Our only concern is that the change should always be in some way an improvement, our minds growing more capable, more compassionate.
This gave me a rad idea for a story. I’ve become a prolific writer of short stories in recent months. My brain bleeds and some of it falls on paper. So, I spent the rest of the trip fitting what I’d been taught into entertaining narratives in preparation to write it all down when I got home, went to appreciate the sunset, bid farewell to Hassan, then crawled in for the night.
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