You will find it so difficult to organize a pedestrian party, that you may as well make up your mind at the outset to go alone. For a day or so you may feel the lack of company; but it will take only a short time to accustom yourself to it, and you will find great delight in the absolute liberty you will enjoy. I have never succeeded in finding a companion for a longer excursion than twenty-five miles. No matter what plans are made in advance, at the last moment one pedestrian finds himself up to his ears in business, another has a sore toe, and another has paid his tailor's bill and hasn't a dollar left. I have long given up hope of walking in company; but one is seldom lonely where nature is beautiful, and there is always enough to think about without talking. Even in seemingly well-assorted parties, if one of the number proves to be lazy, or sulky, or dissents from schemes in which the majority concur, or cannot walk fast, or wishes to linger in uninteresting places for selfish reasons, or is always expressing dissatisfaction with the route, or complains loudly at the little privations of travel that should be subjects of merriment instead of melancholy, or has some hobby that he indulges, to loss of interest in his walk, or is vulgar or vicious in his talk or habits, the whole trip may be spoiled. There should be in a party the cheerfulness, delight in nature, and singleness of purpose, that you would feel alone; and it is difficult to find this, for wherever people are assembled together, differences of opinion arise.
Trampers in the Adirondacks.
Supposing you have started upon your tramp. The sun shines, flowers and foliage sweeten the air, birds sing in the wood yonder, the brook bubbles its cooling music beside the road, the distant hills are clear and blue. Very likely you have seen the landscape hundreds of times before, but it has a new charm now; for you are, perhaps for the first time in your life, absolutely free. Steal into some cornfield by the wayside, and stand on your head for a few minutes to relieve the immense enthusiasm that this feeling is certain to awaken, and resume your walk. You have eaten a hearty breakfast, and your appetite is, no doubt, healthy enough to fill your landlords with some anxiety when you begin your depredations in their dining-rooms; but do not eat a big dinner at noon. If your means are limited, you cannot afford it; if your time is limited, the hour you will spend at the table will be a heavy sacrifice; and if your stomach is heavily loaded, you cannot walk as blithely as you did before dinner. Take your heartiest meal later in the day. At noon, or thereabout, knock at some farmhouse door; and ask for bread and milk. You will receive enough for three, your bill may reach fifteen cents, but it is more likely to be ten, and you will be in better trim to continue the walk than if you had been eating meat, vegetables, and pie. I have often obtained lunches at farmhouses that were almost equal in variety and abundance to a regular dinner. Here is what a man in the Catskills once set before me, after apologizing for the emptiness of his pantry: cold meat, preserved fruit, cake, bread, pot-cheese, and fresh cider. Now guess the amount of his bill. Thirteen cents! Don't be bashful about asking for a bowl of bread and milk, at least in any farmhouse of respectable size and appearance. It is the one thing sure to be found: it is nourishing; and though the charge for it, if one is made, is so low that you feel compunctions of conscience for not paying it twice, remember that money goes farther than in town, while the lunch costs your worthy host the merest trifle. For dessert, help yourself to fruit and berries from the wayside. If benighted, stormbound, or astray, you will have little difficulty in getting the good farmer folk to give you a lodging over night, offering to pay them, of course, for their trouble. They will perplex you with their curiosity; but if you talk cheerfully and frankly, they will like you, and your stay will be pleasant.
Unless you are well supplied with money, do not stop over night in cities and large towns upon your route. Arrange your trip so that you can pass through them, and put up at the tavern in a village beyond. Not in the suburbs, for there the hotels are wretched, but in some country settlement; there the beds will be clean, the tables well-supplied, the charges will be moderate, and you will not be compelled to "dress up" to an alarming extent on account of the company you will meet. Always ascertain the amount of your bill in advance. If you are compelled to stop in a city, it will be wiser, unless your stay is of several days, to engage rooms and pay for only such meals as you have, than to lodge in a pretentious hotel where you pay full day's board if you are there only two hours. Should you lose your way, or find yourself belated and compelled to spend the night in the open air, contrive some sort of covering that shall keep off the dew. A tree is better than nothing. Do not light a fire unless the night is cold, for it will attract bugs, moths, and flies by hundreds; but if you do light one, sleep with your feet towards it, and make sure that nothing in the vicinity is likely to catch the flame. I doubt if your first night on the ground be passed in very sound sleep. You will better enjoy thinking and telling about your experience afterward, than undergoing it at the time. Mysterious murmurs will be heard in the branches; soft footfalls and gliding noises will come from thickets; night birds, crickets, katydids, and frogs will talk persistently; now and then you will start up prepared to affirm that you heard a whisper; you will wonder if there are snakes, skunks, weasels, and rats in the vicinity; and it may be some hours before you realize that the queer noises are only produced by wind and harmless insects; then your tired head will sink upon the grass, you will thrash about and partly wake at intervals, and will presently sit up to rub your stiff elbows and discover that it is morning. Before lying down, remove all hard things except watch and money from your pockets, as they will press into your flesh when you lie upon them, and hurt you. Then turn up your coat collar and button your clothing well about you, for dew will fall and the night be chilly. If your hat or cap is too good to sleep in, tie your handkerchief about your head. Ease your feet by partly unlacing or unbuttoning your shoes, and be sure that your shirt is not tight about the neck. Use your satchel or nightgown as a pillow, your rubber overcoat as a blanket, a heap of grass or leaves as a mattress. You will rest more comfortably if you will make a hollow in the ground about three inches deep, for your shoulder to slip into, and another like it for the hip. I don't recommend sleeping out of doors "for fun." I have tried hoard floors, wagons, and freight cars, and have found them, with a little dressing of weeds and grass, pleasanter beds than bare ground.