Jan 28 2017
Trekking — whether cycling, hiking, mountaineering, or paddling — are all guaranteed to make you thirsty, and as Jerome K. Jerome reminds us, “thirst is a dangerous thing.” That being the case, I wouldn’t go anywhere off the beaten track without carrying my blackened Sierra Club cup:
This cup has history. It’s a phoenix. I took it into the Adirondacks on my first solo jaunts. I’d bought it on impulse, at a little shop in Keene Valley, just because the word EIGER was stamped on the bottom. I was climbing frozen waterfalls back then, and I had dreams of someday tackling the Mordwand, the aptly named “Killer Wall” of the infamous Bernese peak. (I never made it to the Eiger, and that’s probably just as well. The Mordwand’s malign reputation is well deserved.) Later, I carried the same steel cup up peaks in the North Cascades and down north-flowing rivers in the Québec and Ontario sub-arctic.
Then a Christmas Eve fire destroyed our apartment while we were out visiting relatives. Farwell and I came back on Christmas morning to find everything gone. Well, not quite everything. Two of our possessions survived: my Schwinn Traveler 10-speed bike, and my Sierra Club cup. I dug the cup out of the rubble myself, kneeling in fresh snow while I rubbed a thick crust of steaming soot and ash off the steel. I could still see the EIGER stamp. The heat of the fire had stained the steel an indelible blue-black and warped the cup’s bottom just enough that it rocked gently whenever it was set down. That didn’t matter. It had survived the fire.
Now, many years later, the cup has become burnished, and even the EIGER stamp has worn away. That doesn’t matter either. There are better cups. I own several. They’re all more stable. Most are more capacious. Many are lighter. But I’ll bet you can guess which one I reach for when I’m loading my pannier or pack. The old steel cup is a survivor. And so am I. We travel together.
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