About The Belchigators

It all began on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2003.  Navigator had gone into Tahoe and dropped off a 12 pack of coke for other hikers on the trail.  Belcher snagged the last one on a hot afternoon.  The note he left had been signed by all the hikers who were able to partake in the sweetness of the trail magic.  As she pocketed the note, assuming she'd simply find out who he was to send it to him for his memory book after the trail, she became extremely intrigued by the roundness of his o's.  They were perfect circles.  What kind of dude has such good handwriting?

Belcher found herself searching for his entries in every trail register in every town in California.  Even if she didn't have a mail drop, or need to ship anything out, she would stop at the Post Office in town just to see when he had been through.  She had no idea who this man was, but she was obsessed.  Nevermind the fact that she already had a boyfriend.  Who was this mystery man with beautiful handwriting and Coca Cola?

And then, in Seiad Valley, she finally came face to face with the Navigator.  After eating a delicious breakfast at the B&B in Etna, she got a ride from Squatch, independent filmmaker, to the cafe in Seiad to partake in the pancake challenge.  With her was her boyfriend Puck, and Batteries Included, cohort in pancake-eating-after-stuffing-your-face-with-B&B-deliciousness-idiocy.  She walked into the cafe, ordered her doom, and came face to face with the Navigator.

She was instantly shy, unable to make eye contact, and too aware of her obsession.  She thought he was young; much, much younger than she was.  She didn't want freak him out thinking she was a crazy lady, chasing him down the trail with this tattered piece of paper, begging to know why his penmanship was of such a high caliber.  Instead of speaking, she tried unsuccessfully to eat the pancakes.  She ate one, then quit and ordered french fries instead.

Navigator and Belcher continued on their hikes.  He headed north from Seiad, while she traveled back to Etna, a couple days' hike south, thinking nothing of each other until the blustery evening of September 18th at Snoqualamie Pass, Washington.  Navigator had recently returned from a side trip to visit his cousin in Seattle.  He planned to hike out that day, but an old trail friend he hadn't seen in a while, a Fat Tire beer, and pea soup weather convinced him to stay just one more night.  That was the night Belcher walked in to town.

Belcher was no longer with Puck, having ended that relationship in Central Oregon.  She'd been hiking alone since the Oregon border, and made a conscious decision not to get involved with any male hikers for the duration of her trek to Canada.  She was bound and determined to move to Portland, OR afterwards and date a bunch of hairy, stinky, local dudes for a while.  She came up with reasons why she couldn't mess around with the hairy, stinky hikers she was around.  Each one had a reason.  Too old, too hairy, smells like patchouli, from the east coast, probably Republican, has a better camera than me, is in love with Bandana, is as big as a bear, etc.  Her reason not to hook up with Navigator: He's too young.

So when she walked into the Best Western at Snoqualamie Pass and Navigator gave her a hug of welcome, she repeated "He's too young, he's too young, he's too young," over and over as she let her hands casually pass over the strong muscles in his back and arms.  Muscles that grew with each day of hoisting and carrying his pack on his back for the last six months across the Mojave Desert, the Sierras and the Cascade mountains.

He's too young.  He's too young.  He's too young.

It was her mantra as he joined her in the restaurant for lunch, and her mantra as they sat on the couch in the lobby, relaying stories of the trail to each other.  She proudly told her story of crossing the dangerously iced-over Packwood Glacier on her hands and knees after spending a rainy, nearly hypothermic week in the Goat Rocks Wilderness without a ground cloth for her tarp (since that's what Puck carried for their combined trek).

He's too young.  He's too young.  He's too young.

He must have sensed it because somehow he managed to mention that he was 28.  Twenty-eight.  Belcher was 30.  It didn't take long for her brain to compute the difference.

He's too young.  He's not too young.  It's only two years.  He's practically my age.  Quick, think of something else.  He's........too late.

Belcher threw her head back on the couch, laughing at something he said, and chose to succumb to the crazy, blissful, butterflies in the stomach feelings of the first time you start to fall head over heels in love with someone.  And even though she quickly pushed the thought out of her head, it did occur to her that this was the man she was going to marry.

Red Pass, Washington PCT, September 2003.  Photo by Stargazer

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