"They call me mellow yellow ... "
It was the first song to get firmly stuck in my head. I had told my father, Sam (trail name Festus), and his good buddy Ron (Dr. Schlepper) that the terrain on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont would be mellow - it was.
So on the first day of our 100-mile trek through the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont, I had the psychedelic pop stylings of Donovan playing non-stop in the jukebox of my mind.
But the banana-peel smoking crooner was soon crowded out by the WuTang Clan with their mid-90s rap hit "Reunited."
My first day concluded with Smokey Robinson's classic "Tracks of my Tears." Not sure why, but I listened to a the Big Chill soundtrack ad nauseum in middle school.
Getting songs stuck in your head may not seem like a big deal, but when you are iPod-less and hike six to eight hours a day you tend to have a lot of time on your hands. You can think deep thoughts, or just mindlessly sing songs.
Some days on the trail are a chaotic stew of pop, classic rock and hip hop while other days are just two or three verses from the same song. That's when your internal playlist becomes maddening.
Such was the case on the second day of our trip, when out of nowhere I was treading water in a sea of bubble gum pop: "Hey, Hey we're the Monkeys" was the culprit. Why God, must the most inane songs creep into my subconscious? I'll never know.
When that happens, you have to try hard to think of another song to replace it, but it can be difficult. Or sometimes, you'll have a great song going like "Joey" by Bob Dylan and then "Take it Easy" by the Eagles starts blaring. In fact, on one of my first AT backpacking trips in the late 1990s, "Take it Easy" nearly crippled my brain for an entire week.
A new song for me this year was "Black Velvet Band," an Irish folk song that my good friend Jeremy Moore used to play at bar gigs in Cincinnati. I heard it at Irish pub we stopped at during our hike near Killington Peak. It's got a chorus you can sing for days:
Her eyes they shone like diamonds / you'd think she was queen of the land
And her hair hung over her shoulder / tied up with a black velvet band.
On our last night, my best friend Scott Gabbard (Stroker) met up with us in a heavy downpour near Woodstock, Vt. The next day as we hiked into town, Dr. Schlepper starting talking about the origins of NASCAR. Before you know it, I was singing the theme song to the "Dukes of Hazard." by Waylon Jennings. Now that I'm back, I can't get it out of my head.
We had a great trip - eight days of mostly cool weather with a few heavy rains. We ate a lot of good food with a few stops at roadside diners for a hearty breakfast. At a general store near the end of the trip, I consumed a banana, a bag of Sun Chips, a quarter of a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, kettle corn, a Snickers Bar, and two cans of Soda. It was glorious.
Here's some of the other songs that were locked in my noggin:
"Sugar Mountain" by Neil Young, "Ice, Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice (sigh), "Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan, "Chopsticks" piano tune, "Anna" by the Beatles, "Mr. Bojangles" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a Girl Talk song that combines "Lean Back" by Fat Joe and "In the Meantime" by Spacehog, and "Don't Ease Me In" by the Grateful Dead.
Here's a photo of Dr. Schlepper, Festus and me (Skid Mark) at the beginning of our trip:
Ben Poston is the data editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In previous Off the Couch posts he has shared his hiking adventures on the Ouachitah Mountains in western Arkansas, and alley cat racing in Milwaukee.