by Brigs Larson

They have been walking since the world grew grass and the sky changed from black to blue. At least, it feels that way. Croc only started last year when he left Florida with a crocodile and a backpack. That crocodile’s dead now—couldn’t take the cold—but Croc’s still walking. Took his pet’s name to honor it. Then you have folks like Jockey, who’ve been riding the trails for years and years and years. There are hikers on their deathbeds who remember Jockey. Real cool guy, they’d say, got us weed even in the Maine wilderness, when we were at our lowest. Almost died that time, from the cold. He likes it when the old ones remembered him. Makes him feel important. 

I came upon them by accident, really. Took me five years and five attempts at the Appalachian Trail, and I found myself wandering. They tell you stories before you head out into the trees, about missing people found just yards off the trail, decomposing because they wanted to find some water. Don’t walk off, kid, the ranger said every time I passed through his station in the Rockies. For five years I hadn’t.

This time, I walked off.  

I can’t remember why. Looking back on life is weird like that—I can remember the color of Jockey’s hat when I found him shitting in the woods, but I don’t remember the reason I walked off the trail in the first place. Could’ve been water. Could’ve been curiosity. Could’ve been that the gods of the trail were pulling my strings towards them, tugging on the straps of my bag and the cords of my rain shell.

But I found Jockey, oldest of them all with the everlasting face of a 20-year-old, squatting behind a tree. Inelegant, for an immortal. I swear to him I didn’t see anything, but that’s a lie. Hell, I averted my eyes and did my little stumbling number, but it only brought me into a clearing crowded with hiking gear and people and the smell of oatmeal burning. Jockey followed me, zipping up his pants and wiping his hands on his sides.

“Who the hell d’you think you are?” he asked, as if he didn’t already know. 

“Jack Hepburn?” I said it like a question more than anything. 

“This is our camp.” He was wearing what he’s always worn: shorts and a sweater hidden under a yellow hardshell. “You’ve disturbed our camp.”

You can read the rest of this story by purchasing our print issue or our online flipbook (coming soon)!

Author Bio

Instagram: @brigs.larson