Branches on the Trail: An AT choose-your-own-adventure

Imagine this, young grasshoppers. Here you are, stepping along, all sprightly and excellent and loaded down with food and water and clothes and backpack and tent and sleeping bag and all those other fine accoutrements that one tends to accumulate in life on the trail. There the forest is, all verdant and growy, and stuff. Cute. Messy. Full of trees. All over the trail. It’s like a tunnel, sometimes, these trees. They’re everywhere. What do we do, grasshopper? What do we do? Well… we walk under them.

Now trees are living things, you see; and like most living things they can sometimes [KATYDID. KATYDID ON THE WINDOW SCREEN NEXT TO MY FACE. WOW KATYDID!] get rid of stuff. Like… You know…. Imagine here you are, walking along, holding a TwinkieTM and then someone speedily whacks you in the face with a two-by-four. What do you do? Well, probably grab your face. But first you have to drop the TwinkieTM, you see.

Trees are like us in more ways than one. Imagine again: here you are, a tree. Holding tree stuff. Acorns. Leaves. Tree limbs. SUDDENLY HERE IS THE WIND HELLO, WIND, AND BAM. In your face. All its wind molecules, hitting you all in your face molecules! What do you do?

Well, if you are anything like the trees in the forest, young grasshopper, you will drop your tree things with alacrity and then wave your remaining limbs about in a flailing motion, only because you can’t actually clutch your face like a human. The things will land below you. They will litter the pathways. They will adorn the forest floor, glorious lignin constructs and desperate products of reproductive evolution, in shapes thousands and thousands of years in the making. Wow.

Now, we come back to the hiker. Remember you? Stepping along? Sprightly. Under trees. Accoutrements. But trees everywhere have been hit in the face with a two-by-wind. Everywhere. All night. Especially around hurricanes, and their stuff is EVERYWHERE, OH GOSH, EVERYWHERE, I’VE GOTTA KEEP WALKING, EVERYWHERE, AW MAN- ouch. What is- ouch! Why is it suddenly so difficult to walk?

Look down, grasshopper. Look down. You’re standing in…. a wee tree limb. It is attached to your foot. How did it get there? Science. Now what do you do?

If you would like to deal with this tiny branch in the spirit of the Pinhoti Trail, scroll down and go to option A.

If you’re a pretty calm and stoic type of person, go to option B.

If you have a tendency to find small things with your feet and then fall over them, go to option C.

If you don’t step into tree branches, skip to option F.

Option A. Cry.

Aww… you mad, bro?

No. Scroll down to option E.
Yes. Proceed to option D. 
I’m lost. Look for K.

Option B. Keep walking. Stoically. Twist your foot a little- the tree branch may fall off. No… It doesn’t. Darn. Are you still stoic?
Yes. Proceed to option I.
No. Proceed to option D.

Option C. Trip. Fall down. Unfortunately, you seem to have found yourself at the edge of a cliff. How clumsy of you. Argh, and the tree limb is still stuck on your foot! You look down over the steep dropoff and think a thought to yourself:
Of course, the cliff. How typical. Proceed to option G.
Wait… There aren’t supposed to be cliffs around here. Proceed to L.

Option D. Hrrrrgh, foliage. You plant your foot on a lichen or moss-covered rock, paying no heed to the slow-growing vegetation now being crushed beneath your rubber heel. You flail at the limb with your hiking stick in one hand, but accidentally hit the rock too hard. Your hiking stick breaks. (Probably karma.) “AAARRRRGHH,” you shout, waving your other arm in the air. The trees absorb the sound, rustling slightly in the breeze. You know they are laughing at you inside. You pick up the pieces of your hiking pole and hold them despondently in your hands.
Take a deep breath. Ok. You can do this. Meditate towards option I.

Option E. Ohhh… But… you are so tired, and your pack is so heavy. You try to step a little farther, while staring down at the tree branch sadly. It is on your foot. Maybe it will fall off…
Keep walking, while staring down at it despondently. Go to option R.
Ugh. You are stuck. Stop and shake your foot half-heartedly. Go to option H.

Option F. Yes. Yes you do. Go to option H.

Option G. Turn around. Every now and then you get a little bit lonely… Every now and then you fall apart. But you need this trail more than ever; because you know it’s never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down.
Never gonna run around, or desert you.
The AT might make you cry,
Or want to say goodbye, but it’s
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.
You just got rickrolled. You are welcome.

Option H. You shake your foot half-heartedly. The offending foliage is now stabbing at your ankle with a twiggy appendage. Ughhhh. You shuffle, then move your feet to take a step. The branch moves with you. It would be a great dancing partner, if it was human.
Argh. You are so full of angst. Go to T.
What ho, VERY WELL, A SHRUBBERY! Scroll philosophically to M.

Option I. Aww man. Ok. You reach down and disentangle the branch like a person in full possession of their mental facilities, then stand up straight and tall. You are free! Time to keep hiking, and follow this path to where it leads you. You might have some setbacks, but, like this tree branch, everything can be overcome with a bit of thought, a smidgeon of luck, and a load of grit and perserverance. You stride down the trail like a winner, because that’s what you are.

Option J. You breathe quietly, listening. The birds are silent. The branch pokes you in the ankle. The jingling moves near… then away…. then close again. Why did you decide to hide behind this rock? Oh. Right. Gut instinct. You hear men’s voices… They’re oddly accented… and they’re talking about some kind of quest? Stranger and stranger. Probably a good thing you hid behind this rock. The voices move away. The clopping begins again, and fades into the distance. Somewhat perturbed, you wait some time before venturing out… Oddly enough, there are no horse tracks, only two sets of boot prints and some… coconut fibers? Huh. You bend over, disentangle your foot from the branch, and continue on your way for some hours before deciding to stop at the next shelter, where you set up camp, cook a hot meal, hang your food, and go to sleep with a peaceful, tired sigh. Ah. All is well in the world.

Option K. Well, there’s really only one thing to do from here.
Decide to walk in the direction you know was behind you. Scroll to G.
Oh no. You don’t even know for sure which direction you came from. Wander towards S.

Option L. You quietly slide back a little from the cliff edge and sit up. The tree limb is still on you, but you are too busy scanning the forest for white blazes to pay it any mind. Nothing. Nothing. Is that- no, that’s just a spot of lichen kind of shaped like a blaze. Nothing. Uh oh… Were you even on a trail? You look behind you.
If the wilderness stretches back, looking almost the same in every direction, go to option N*
If there’s clearly a trail, go to option I.

*If this is your seventeenth time around and you’re about to go to option N again, please proceed to option A.

Option M. Well, alright. You sigh, shrug a little, and continue to walk, the shrubbery dragging behind you. Strangely enough, you soon begin to hear a clopping sound behind you. There aren’t supposed to be horses on this section of trail. Huh. You move aside as it gets nearer…
This is passing strange, and you are getting a very odd feeling about this. Hide behind the bushes. Go to O.
Stand there and wait until the source of the clopping comes into view. Go to V.

Option N. You look in front of you. Yep, definitely still a cliff.
Go to option L.

Option O. You shuffle behind a bush. Oh wait. There aren’t any really thick bushes in this forest understory. Luckily for you, there are plenty of rocks. You dive behind a rock! Unfortunately, this cuts off your field of view. The clopping gets nearer…. it slows…. it stops. You hear some jangling noises. Is someone wearing… chain mail?
Peer out from behind your rock. Go to V.
Decide that discretion is the better part of valor. Stay as still and silent as you can. Go to J.

Option P. Gasping madly for breath, you look back. They’re still there. Still watching. Their red eyes glint madly at you; well… they glint, anyways. What is mad glinting? You’re not really sure, but it’s intimidating enough that right now you’re willing to bet an entire tray full of triple chocolate chip cookies against your odds of survival, which is never a reassuring thought. You look out, and down…. down…. down…. sideways. There’s a tree. A tree, off to the side. Maybe you can leap for it? You roll for dexterity. It’s…. 19. The tree looms just. within. leaping distance.. You hope. Only one way to find out. You step back, then, fueled by terror, launch yourself into the air, do a triple front flip, and catch hold of a branch far below. You manage to hold on, and it doesn’t break, you lucky, lucky dog. The red eyes fade back into the shadows, disappointed, and peaceful silence descends on the mountaintop. You’ve survived another day. Congratulations.

Option Q. “WELL, WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT, PEASANT? THAT IS REALLY QUITE RUDE,” the man shouts. He has kind of an odd accent, and appears to only have one volume setting. You are also going in the same direction. You look at the coconut carrying guy behind him, who says nothing. “Hello,” you say to them both. You move aside to let them pass. The man’s eyes widen, and he exchanges a glance with coconut-guy before starting to walk past you. The clopping begins in time with his walk, and you watch, fascinated- WHEN SUDDENLY, the man whirls on you, a sharp sword in his hand! “NO QUEST IS THIS SIMPLE! PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE!!” He runs you through with his sword, and you slump to the ground beneath the sunlit blue sky.

Option R. You walk into a tree. Go to G.

Option S. You look up. It’s cloudy, so you can’t even tell which way is north. Not that that would help, because you don’t know which direction you left the trail from, either. Oh no. When was the last time you saw a white blaze? Oh geez. Don’t panic. You sit and think for a while. Ok. You have enough food to last for a while; you’re fine for shelter. You know that wandering makes it less likely that people can actually find you…. But when was the last time you remember being on the path? You think back.
Huh. Definitely only, like, half a minute ago. Go to W.

Option T. Hurrrgh. You are so miserable already. You are looking down at your feet when you feel a raindrop on the back of your hand. Of course. Of course now it is raining. The nearest shelter is miles away. This is the worst day. You despondently spend way too much time untangling the branch from your shoelaces. How did that even happen, universe? How did this happen. Oh, right… you chose this. Here you are. On this trail. Here. Tired. Being rained on. Hungry. You chose this. You climb one hill, and then the next. You chose this. It starts raining harder; puddles are forming in the trail, and soon your shoes will be sloshing and wet. At least it’s not freezing rain; at least that. At least your tears look like the rain. …At least that. You only have hundreds and hundreds of miles to go. You are slogging onwards through a gap when you look left and see what looks like a decent campsite. No. You want to make it to the shelter tonight. You turn back to the trail, eyes on your trail guide: how far is it to the shelter now, anyways?
Suddenly, with no warning, a large tree topples over onto your head. It’s been a good life. Too bad.

Option V. The first thing that comes into view is a crown-and-chainmail capped head, bobbing up and down comically. It is a man, oddly dressed. The source of the mysterious clopping noise is a second man, following close behind him, who appears to be hitting two coconut shells together with a look of great concentration on his face. You stifle a laugh, and it draws their attention. “GOOD MORROW, PEASANT!” the first man shouts loudly. You look at him strangely; really, you are not standing very far away. There is no need to shout.
Oh well. Remain tactfully silent. Go to Q.
Inform him of this. Go to Y.

Option W. Suddenly, a friendly bird hops down and tweets at you. You watch it. It flits back and forth, almost as if it was trying to tell you something. You stare at it, then pick up your pack and walk towards it; it flies. You follow… and before you know it, you’re back on the trail. Incredible. With wildlife like this, who needs choose-your-own-adventure novels? You close down your internet device and go outside.

Option X. YOU ARE SO ANGRY. AUGH. You throw the pieces of your hiking pole into the nearby foliage in frustration, and hear a squeak. A small black furry ball emerges, crying softly. Awwww, it is so cuuuute, and you hit it because you were angry! What a jerk you are. But it’s tiny! There might be a mother. You realize your danger and quickly get out of there, the tree branch falling off your foot in your haste. Whew, that could have been really bad, you think later that night, warm in your sleeping bag. What a close one. Unfortunately for you, two weeks later, you fail to take the same precautions with the tame wild deer, and it kicks you in the head while you’re trying to get a good picture. You perish miserably.

Option Y. “I am not standing very far away. There is no need to shout,” you say. The man stares at you. It is at this point that you notice he has a very large, very sharp-looking sword hanging at his side.
Choose to remain tactfully silent this time. Go to Q.
Ask him if that’s a sword. Continue to Z.

Option Z. “Is that a sword?” you say. You know it’s a sword. It’s sharp-edged and made out of metal and definitely very pointy at the end. Very pointy. We cannot overemphasize how pointy it is, this sword… You curse yourself quietly for not hiding when you had the chance, and wait for his reply. But he is not listening; he is staring at your feet. “Is that… MY GOOD PEASANT, IS THAT A SHRUBBERY?” he shouts.
You look down at your feet, too. You look up at him. You look down at your feet. “…Yes?”
“GOOD PEASANT,” he shouts again, drawing himself up and gesturing grandly. Geez, this guy. “I AM IN NEED OF THAT SHRUBBERY, FOR-” You bend down and hand it over to him before he can finish his proclamation. He stops in surprise, loudly thanks you, drops an odd gold-colored coin of some dubious origin into your hand, then gallops off over the next hillside, his coconut-man following close behind. You shake your head and move on… It takes all types, I guess.

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