There are a few minor superpowers that one gains by walking long enough through the woods.
Your sense of smell will sharpen. You will be able to tell which approaching hikers are only out for the day: they will smell like Bath & Body Works, Irish Spring, cologne, and/or dryer sheets. You will be able to smell a campfire (or even what’s cooking on it) a mile away–just remember, it might be someone’s backyard barbeque, far off the trail, that you will never reach. There is one exception to your new supernose, however, which is both a blessing and a curse: you won’t usually be able to smell yourself. You might forget this until you go into a fine dining establishment in a nice little town and catch people with vinegary expressions backing away from you.
You will rarely fall. But you will stumble every day. You will make inadvisable foot placements, neglect to notice a sharp rock or root, flail your arms and grasp for balance. I’ve fallen fewer than five times out here, and most involved mud, ice, or snow (the last of which is best: cushioned and non-staining). Your most embarrassing slips, however, will be in town. You will stride mile after mile through difficult terrain all day, then arrive in town and trip up the front steps of some well-populated establishment. Passerby will wonder how the hell you made it to New Hampshire from Georgia if you can’t even climb stairs.
(This is one of J’s photos, and bears no relation to anything in this post. It’s just cool.)
You will develop knowledge that is completely inapplicable in the “real” world, but that is indispensable in the woods. Such as: if the temperature is going to be near freezing overnight, loosen your shoelaces and tuck your shoes inside your tent, where they will stay a few degrees warmer thanks to your body heat. Otherwise, you will be unable to put them in the morning. The laces will stick straight out like Pippi Longstocking’s braids, and you will have to boil water to thaw your shoes… which means you have to get your stove out in your stocking feet on frozen ground.
You will be able to tell when you are the first person to use a trail on any given day, and where another person ahead of you began their trek that morning. How? Through dozens of invisible spiderwebs you will break each mile until another person has taken up the honor. It’s like winning several hundred tiny marathons daily, except the ribbons don’t gracefully fly free as you stretch your arms in the air triumphantly–they cling around you, tickling, and occasionally deliver a small, frightened spider somewhere on your person.
You will develop amazing, giant, slightly revolting leg muscles. However, your arm muscles will wither away, and if you ever did ab work, the benefits of it will disappear. It is the superpower of the T. Rex training plan.
Finally, you will become friends with the plants and animals. Over the months, my wildlife sighting list has grown dramatically. There are still many creatures in the woods that you will not know, but every time you recognize a maidenhair fern, a wild rose, or a chattering chipmunk, you will greet it, and feel more at home.
PS. Here’s what you might look like once you gain these special powers:
Yeah, yeah, but I can explain: it was cold out, hence the rain chaps, the hoodie, and the gloves… but it was sunny, so I had to wear the ballcap backwards so I could get maximum Vitamin D. See?