I knew that she was trouble the minute I saw her. She was sporting a look I was fond of myself back in the early nineties (back when I used to crimp my hair and put it up in a side pony-tail, and team my dad's aquamarine t-shirt with a leather waistcoat and fluorescent-specked leggings) and talking loudly about the fact that she hadn't ever done any walking before. The problem was that looking at double denim girl, this wasn't too hard to believe. This was New Jersey after all, home of the drive-in bank, and this girl definitely seemed built for the SUV rather than shank's precarious pony.
Now there's something about lacing myself into my hiking boots that really brings out my inner bitch. Maybe it's because wearing all that gore-tex and moulded plastic makes me feel like that I'm ready for the first reels of the disaster movie to unfurl, and that my boots have cast me as the tough, resourceful heroine, while everyone around me is just a tragic statistic waiting to happen. Or maybe it's just that they make me want to walk far and fast, without any denim-clad encumbrances. Whatever, those boots do strange and unnerving things to me.
So when I glanced across the platform at double denim girl, my mouth said Hello, but my inner hiking bitch said, There's going to be a lot of chafing on the trail today. Turns out I was being optimistic. Less than 10 minutes into the easy 8 mile clamber we'd lost her. Somehow she and a group of stragglers had missed a turning and we had to wait half an hour for the rescue party to bring them back. By this point the boots were getting restless.
By the time we were all reunited a decision had been made to split into two parties, so I got to leave the double denim faction behind and clamber over rocks to my boots' content - give or take a few enforced 'separation' comfort breaks. But even then I felt like a dog choking herself as she strained at the leash. How come we had to stop so often? Why did people needed to sit around in the sun like lizards when everyone had finished lunch? Couldn't we just go already?
Gradually I came to the unwelcome conclusion that somewhere between puffing up the Himalayas and beasting the Time Out book of Country Walks I'd turned into a hiking fascist. Why shouldn't double denim girl enjoy the countryside at her own pace? Why shouldn't we stop at the top of the mountain to shoot the breeze? What was wrong with taking it easy in the spring sunshine?
Because we're made for walking, the boots muttered, and kicked up the dirt in disgust.