If you've spent a significant amount of time on the trail, perhaps you have experienced the old-fashioned way in which news travels. Not by tweets or snapchats or whatever the kids are using these days - but by word of mouth. In a similar manner to the old mantra "loose lips sink ships", the spoken word really travels unbelievably fast on the trail.
I saw a perfect example of this phenomenon on July 4th. What better way to inaugurate my new HMG pack than a prezie traverse, and what more patriotic of a day to do it than independence day.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of enjoying a warm, not-so-windy, clear summer day on the presidential range knows it's truly a marvel to behold. When it's out of the clouds, the range truly stands as a monument to some of the most extraordinary and formidable hiking the east coast has to offer. But one of my favorite things about being on the trail, especially in the middle of a beautiful summer day, is the people.
My favorite trail friend on this day was Flag Guy. I met Flag Guy on the summit of Mt. Monroe, where he pulled an American flag from his backpack and asked me to take a picture of him with it. Flag Guy told me he was getting a picture with the flag at the top of every presidential on the 4th. I thought to myself "It's a bit of a weird time in American history to be really super into... well... America" but figured the flag was probably a VA burial flag - sent to the next-of-kin for a fallen soldier - and Flag Guy was honoring his friend or family member.
Nope. This wasn't the case - Flag Guy was just really into the flag. Fair enough. Once I'd taken his picture, Flag Guy proceeded to start stuffing his flag into his backpack. I asked him if he knew how to properly fold the flag, to which Flag Guy responded that he did not.
This prompted a quick lesson in flag folding in the wind at the top of Mt. Monroe. I showed Flag Guy how to fold the flag in half twice long-ways, and then fold it with rolled triangles starting at the striped end, to produce a neatly packed and unwrinkled little triangle. Once I'd helped Flag Guy fold his flag into a neat triangular parcel, we wished him well and scampered on down towards Eisenhauer.
Later, on the summit of Mt. Jackson (not named for the president), I met a couple more guys who had been traversing that day. They sat enjoying a couple of beers and resting their legs after a long and unforgivable hike. We got to chatting and they asked me if I had met Flag Guy. "Of course! That guy was hilarious!" They then, to my delight, told me they had heard from somebody else, that earlier in the day, some random guy up on the ridge had to teach Flag Guy how to fold his flag.
Now past Lakes, the trail was relatively quiet. It felt like we had seen hardly anyone since I crossed paths with nationally treasured Flag Guy, but that didn't stop word from spreading across the ridge about my impromptu flag folding lesson in the wind!