The Best Seasoning

In which Daniel embarks upon a most unexpected spelunking adventure and eats some delicious crackers.

To my dear reader,

PSO – the Puget Sound Outdoors club – had, since my freshman year of college, been an organization that I continually meant to get involved with and that I continually failed to dedicate any time to. “Next semester,” I told myself over and over again. “After this coming break, I will sign up for a trip, or an event, or a hike or bike ride. Yes, I will do it next time, next time I swear.” Yet next time never seemed to arrive, and four of my eight semesters passed without embarking upon a trip.

But the day came that, in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving break, PSO was found in the student union building, tabling for a three day autumnal camping trip, complete with an breakfast, lunch and a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner. “But this will occur the weekend before break,” I thought glumly. “I have so much work to do that weekend.” And then I reconsidered that thought. Yes, I had work, but would the world end if I missed it? No. Would it really matter in the long run if, rather than doing my assigned reading for English 212, I went camping? Good Lord, no. And as I signed up for the trip, next time finally arrived.

Needless to say, the universe would not let me succeed so easily. Only days before the trip, a great storm front began to approach the Puget Sound, threatening our camping trip with thunder and lightning. Arriving on the doorstep of PSO’s house, I was informed that the camping trip had been canceled due to the imminent weather. In place of it, a day hike through the caves of Mount Saint Helens was being planned, to be concluded with a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner at a PSO leader’s residence. “You don’t have to go to the hike if you don’t want to,” the student leaders of PSO said. “We understand if you would rather have gone on the camping trip and don’t want to go on this trip instead with the weather.”

“Ha!” I laughed. “A little inclement weather and change in scheduling cannot deter me!” I borrowed some hiking boots and prepared for our morning departure.

Something my mother used to say is that hunger makes the best seasoning. By this she meant that being hungry makes everything taste better than it would while you were satiated. I suppose that this is partly due to the increased metabolism that exercise gives. But I had not been as reminded of this fact as I was the day of this PSO trip.

The caves of Mount Saint Helens were dark, yes, and wet too. But I had forgotten how strenuous the act of moving through a cave was. Moving ten feet might mean more clambering, scrambling, crawling and wriggling than I had certainly done in the past four semesters. After four hours of such spelunking, I and the other PSO members ascended from the exit of the tunnel to the brilliantly lit forest above to feast on our lunch.

PSO ascending from the depths of the lava tubes.

PSO ascending from the depths of the lava tubes.

To be specific, we were to feast upon Bickeys. For those of you not familiar, Bickeys are a strange type of cracker meant as a high-calorie train upon which condiments such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa and peanut butter can travel into your mouth They are, essentially, camping lunchables. Admittedly, I had long since come to despise lunchables, and under normal circumstances, I might have turned down the Bickeys in favor of granola or fruit. But after four hours of clambering, scrambling, crawling and wriggling, I was ready to eat anything.

The breakfast oatmeal that PSO had given us in the morning and the amazing pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner we prepared and ate at our student leaders’ residence were both remarkable meals. Sharing such meals with students that I was getting to know for the first time was a new and wonderful experience. But in all my life, I cannot remember biting into something and finding it more satisfying than that moment when I bit into my first Bickey, covered in cream cheese and cheddar cheese. No, it was no food of the gods, but was in many ways, better – food earned after finally achieving my goal of joining a PSO trip, traveled great distance for through the dripping darkness, and seasoned with my truly formidable hunger.

The pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal that awaited us at the end of the trip.

The pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal that awaited us at the end of the trip.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert