Part Twenty-Five: Chapter Twelve, Part One: Cheryl Fails at Life Again and Also Kills Some Frogs
Chapter Twelve begins with a version of Cheryl we have not yet met-- sort of like the Anti-Cheryl-- because this Cheryl wakes up "at first light" and claims that it only takes her five minutes to pack up camp. Well, that's just incredible! The Cheryl we know wakes up around nine, lounges around for a couple hours and then takes forever to pack up camp, but *BLAM* she's suddenly an expert hiker now, apparently. I don't know when this happened, but we're supposed to believe that she went from a totally clueless jackass to an expert super-hiker overnight. Sure. Whatever.
She talks about Monster again:
"Monster was my world, my inanimate extra limb. Though its weight and size still confounded me, I'd come to accept that it was my burden to bear. I didn't feel myself in contradiction to it the way I had a month before. It wasn't me against it. We two were one."
It's just a fucking pack, not your boyfriend.
She spends the next paragraph describing how awesome her muscles have become and how her skin is all beat up from carrying Monster, then launches into yet another long pity-party about her feet and STFU already, I don't care. Finally, she explains that she has a whole sixty-four ounces of water to last her until the next (possible) water source located "fifteen searing miles across Hat Creek Rim," which had prompted me to write, "That's not gonna work" in the margin.
Cheryl starts hiking and makes an attempt at describing things but ends up just sounding like an angsty teenage girl because that's how Cheryl writes.
About some dead trees:
"Their stark beauty bore down on me with a silent anguished force as I passed them by."
About the sky:
"The blue sky was everywhere above me..."
That's how the sky works.
This kind of drivel goes on for about half a page before something is profound again because of course it is, and I'm not going to go into detail with all of her flowery bullshit. She says a lot of stupid, overwrought nonsense, the end.
To make things sound more interesting, she almost steps on another rattlesnake and no she doesn't. "If I'd taken another few steps, I'd have been upon it," and how many times is this idiot almost going to step on a rattlesnake, which isn't even possible unless you're blind and deaf, or Cheryl Strayed. She takes a break and spends the next paragraph having some kind of drama queen meltdown:
"I kept having the vague feeling that something lurked nearby, watching me, waiting to pounce. I sat up and scanned the terrain for mountain lions, then lay back down, telling myself that there was nothing to fear, before I quickly sat up again at what I thought was the snap of a branch."
SPOILER: SHE NEVER GETS EATEN BY A MOUNTAIN LION. THERE ARE NO MOUNTAIN LIONS. EVER.
Nothing happens because nothing ever happens and this is just Cheryl yet again trying to make things seem far more dramatic than they are.
Still miles away from the next (potential, but in no way guaranteed) water source, Cheryl drinks more than half of the little water she has and claims that it is now exactly 100 degrees outside. She describes sweating in case we don't know how sweating works and offhandedly mentions how this is now her fifth week on the trail because she likes to bury the details. She drinks more of her water and starts talking about flowers and I'm not doing this.
Walking is hard and she starts counting her steps for no particular reason and also feels the need to do this--
"One two three four five six seven eight nine ten."
--and I guess this is helpful if you don't know how counting works, which is likely what Cheryl assumes because she's so much smarter than all of us. She sweats some more and says she's still three miles away from the water tank. Since that's no big whoop, she drinks more of her water but leaves herself two whole ounces until she has the water tank in sight, and once she sees it off in the distance, she slams the rest of her water. Then,
"As I approached, I saw that the wooden post near the tank was covered with something that flapped in the wind. It looked like several shredded ribbons at first and then a ripped cloth. It wasn't until I got up close that I saw they were tiny scraps of paper-- notes stuck with duct tape and now fluttering in the wind."
Guess what all the notes say. "NO WATER." Guess how Cheryl deals with this information.
She throws an honest-to-god tantrum at this point--
"I kicked the dirt and grabbed fistfuls of sage and threw them,"
--and oh my god, I can't believe that she was totally unprepared for something, this is so shocking. She calls herself an idiot and HOORAY! SOMETHING WE CAN ALL AGREE ON! She whips out her guidebook to find out where the next water source might be and discovers that there's a potential reservoir about five miles away. I will spare you all of Cheryl's super dramatic thought-bubbles on her way to the reservoir-- you're welcome-- and she finally gets her dumb ass there.
Because she sucks at lying and also can't remember what she's already written, she says,
"I'd hiked my first twenty-mile day."
Well, that's crazy because I seem to remember her telling Jimmy Carter just 15 pages earlier,
"I hike fifteen to twenty miles a day, day after day, up and down mountains, far away from roads or people or anything..."
Hey, would you look at that. Cheryl is lying again and doing a piss-poor job of it.
Anyway, she gets to the reservoir and it's essentially just a large puddle of disgusting muck, but Cheryl gets out the water purifier to do her amazing Cheryl thing, even though the water is "so dense with sludge" that it nearly jams her filter. In a rare instance of doing the intelligent thing, Cheryl pops some iodine pills into the filtered water as an extra precaution and I can't believe these words are about to come out of my mouth: Good thinking, Cheryl.
Look, Cheryl! I just complimented you! SAVOR IT. IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN.
The iodine pills take thirty minutes to work, and it is the longest thirty minutes of my life because it is also the longest thirty minutes of Cheryl's life. I will spare you, and you're welcome again.
She finally drinks her sludge water, pumps more, drinks more, and so on. And then, of course,
"I'll never be so careless again, I promised the moon before falling asleep."
Except she's immediately careless-- take that, stupid moon!-- because setting up her tent, "a task that required little more than two minutes' effort," was too much trouble for her and she falls asleep right there out in the open next to this big puddle of sludge. She wakes up two hours later covered in frogs and I didn't even know where to start my Google search on the validity of this claim. "Will frogs swarm you while you sleep" produced nothing; "covered in frogs" didn't help, either, but now I know there's a song called "Covered In Frogs" and it is almost as awful as this book. Since I really don't care that much about this particular detail, let's just believe that Cheryl woke up covered in frogs, sure, why not.
"Within an instant, I was among them, hopping, leaping, and hurling myself, my pack, my tarp, and everything that sat on it into the brush beyond the beach, swatting frogs from my hair and the folds of my t-shirt as I went. I couldn't help but squish a few beneath my bare feet."
And there you go.