Book,  Hiking,  Travel Memoir

The White Shadow & His Dark Companion

The White Shadow & His Dark Companion, two thru-hikers standing in front of an AT sign at Mountain Crossings Outfitter
Overdrive & Mr. Fabulous – 2012 AT Thru-Hike

Like his father, Overdrive has a childlike sense of humor and at times only he finds his jest humorous. Still, even a bad Overdrive joke can bring a smile to anyone’s face. It’s not because his stories are funny, but because he, himself finds them to be hilarious. One day Overdrive and I were hiking together along a large meadow. It was a mellow, carefree day for both of us. We walked side by side, instead of one in front of the other along the trail.

“Isn’t this a good day, my Dark Companion?” said Overdrive in his interpretation of a deep superhero voice. 

His tone and the statement caught me off guard, and then filled me with laughter. 

Wanting to come up with an equally quick-witted response, I said, “Indeed, my White Shadow.”

We both had a laugh and for the remainder of the day we addressed each other by our new nicknames.

“You know, my Dark Companion, I wish my brother Matt was here on the trail with me, but since he isn’t, you’re my trail brotha,” says Overdrive. His statement is too corny for me to give him serious response.

“Shut it, White Shadow. I’m not buying the Hallmark card you are trying to sell me,” I protested, with an indignant look that I failed to sustain on my face.

We simultaneously shared a boisterous laugh until it began to affect my breathing. 

“I can’t breathe… stop,” I said, grasping for air.

“It’s not me, my Dark Companion,” he replied, and the laughter continued. 

But, then there’s days like today, when the presence of a family member can get on one’s last nerve. Today Overdrive is over-the-top with his speed-hiking and I don’t care to keep up with him. Eventually, during lunchtime, I see him at a shelter. I race past him and straight to the privy and when I return he asks, “How’s the privy?” a question I once thought odd, but now find necessary, for there are some privies that ought to be stayed clear of.

“Crappy,” I respond, giving him a what did you expect look.

“Oh, I get it, it’s a privy full of crap, so it’s crappy,” he says sarcastically.

“You’re not just a great hiking machine, you’re a genius,” I respond with my own sarcasm.

We hike on to the next shelter, our home for the evening. As we settle in and prepare our dinner at a picnic table with the rest of the Moving Village, Overdrive is eager to share his speed record of the day, “I hiked the last five miles in an hour.”

“Well, why don’t you tell everyone about the time you hiked the entire Sierra Desert with just a quart of salt water and a slice of moldy bread?” I can’t resist halting his boasting, especially this evening.

“First of all, that’s impossible,” says a logical Overdrive.

I exhale a chuckle. He cracks me up, especially when he’s not trying to be funny.

“Yeah, but not for you,” I say, with a caveman voice, I add “Me Overdrive, me best hiker in world!” 

The Moving Village, except for Overdrive, begin to laugh. Yet, it doesn’t take long for my hiking buddy to join in. 

And here’s another reason why I love this guy; he takes it all in stride. 

“Oh, it feels so good to have my boots off,” I say, changing the subject. 

There’s an overwhelmingly soothing sensation I get when I peel my boots off after a long day of hiking. When at camp, the separation of my throbbing feet from my compressing boots, plus the act of eating are two highly anticipated end-of-day activities. 

“It feels good to have your chunk-lettuce on, huh Mr Fabulous?” says Overdrive with a grin.

I almost choke on a mouthful of Ramen noodle. It doesn’t matter how many times I explain to him that the Hispanic word for flip-flops is not chunk-lettuce, but chancletas. His mouth seems to be unable to pronounce the Spanish word. Still, a part of me, hopes he never gets it right. His expression and pronunciation of the word is possibly the funniest thing I have heard him say thus far.

“Dude… you can’t ack… do that… I almost choked. You have to make sure… ack… I’m free from anything that may… ack… obstruct my breathing before you attempttosay chancletas,” I say, trying to clear my airways and laughing at the same time. 

“Are you okay?” says Halfway with genuine concern.

My eyes well up with tears and the word chunk-lettuce keeps running through my head. Like a car without breaks, my ongoing belly laughter is out of control. 

“Yeah, I think so,” I say, leaning my forehead on the picnic table.

“Was it something I said?” says Overdrive.

“I swear, if you say it again I’m going to jam the rest of my Ramen noodles down your throat, so you can get a taste of your own medicine,” I threaten, but he doesn’t listen.

Chunk-lettuce,” he says and steps back.

The hilarious part is that he’s truly trying to say the word correctly, but his mouth seems to fail him at every try. 

This time I’m clear to laugh without choking. The others join me, it’s one of those moments when a contagious laughter runs amok through a group. It goes on for a few minutes until hunger interrupts and we begin to eat again.

My days on the trail are full of discoveries, beauty and companionship. The hikers I encounter on the trail seem to have a sense of exhilaration about being out here, they are rediscovering themselves and enjoying it in their own way. Still, if there’s one person I feel that has taken every moment of every day of his Appalachian Trail experience and transformed it into something extraordinary for himself, it’s my hiking companion. I know this because I wake up every morning feeling what I can clearly see in him every day. Many may feel this way, but few if any, can clearly express it like my trail brotha Overdrive.   

If you’re interested in reading more about my adventurous AT experience, check out my travel memoir, The Unlikely Thru-Hiker.


  • Anne Causey

    Derick, I am almost finished with your book, which my father and sister recommended to me. I am so glad you have a web site! I love, love, love your book, and your writing! Thank you so much for writing it, for doing the hike and for sharing yourself and your humor. I am more than half tempted to chuck my job and go hike it! You have the most positive and courageous spirit. Thank you! I look forward to the end of the pandemic and a chance to go hear you speak!

    • Derick Lugo

      Hey Anne! I’m glad you found my website. It’s getting a facelift and will be much cooler. 😀
      If you can’t do a thru-hike, you should definitely do sections. The AT is a wondrous place and it will change your life forever. Trust me, I’m proof.

      I’m delighted that you dig ‘The Unlikely Thru-Hiker’! Can you do me a huge favor? May you rate and review it on Amazon? 💜

      It might inspire others to hike the AT or do something that they have always wanted to do. It will also be good for my future writing projects.

      Peace, Love & All That Good Stuff! ✌🏽 ⛺️👊🏽

      If you’re on Goodreads as well… that would be so dope! 💜💜💜

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