‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the camp
Each hiker had turned off their ultralight lamp;
Their bellies were filled up with backpack cuisine
From instant potatoes to freeze dried ice cream.
The hikers were nestled each one in their bivvy
(Except for a guy who snuck out for the privy);
The wool socks were hung on each tree branch with care
With hopes that they’d dry and be ready to wear.
And ma in her wool buff, and I in my cap,
Had just checked and folded up our waterproof map,
When out by our camp site there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my down bag to see what was the matter.
I reached for my bear spray and felt for my knife,
Then unzipped the tent and looked out in the night;
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Made me glad that I packed clothes for 30 below.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh filled with backpacking gear,
With a little old driver so lively and fit,
I thought, “No, this can’t be the same pudgy St. Nick.”
More rapid than eagles his coursers they flew,
But he called different names than the ones that I knew:
“Now, Trekker! Now, Hiker! Now Alpine and Gypsy!
On Venture! On Nomad! On Pilgrim and Tipsy!
To the top of the mount! to the top of the trees!
Now dash away! Dash away, dash away, please!”
As I drew in my head, and I reached for my lamp,
The ground shook as St. Nicholas landed in camp.
He was dressed in merino with a goose down-filled puffy,
And his beard wasn’t long—it was 3-day old scruffy!
He gave me a wink, and took off from his back
A huge red and white eighty-five liter pack.
His eyes shone like flames ‘neath an ultralight pot;
His dimples were just like a well-tied square knot.
His boots were scuffed up from the trails he’d explored,
And his pants were held up with some green paracord.
He was healthy and trim, a right jolly old guy;
From his gait I could tell he was limber and spry.
He stoked our small fire and smiled, warming his hands,
Then he leaned in and whispered his Christmas eve plans:
“I’m starting my night with a ten-mile loop hike,”
And I thought to myself, “This guy’s easy to like.”
We swapped hiking stories—most of them true
(Except for the one ’bout the goats he claimed flew).
He filled all our wool socks with gifts that were keen,
Then he filtered some water and filled my Nalgene.
And pointing his finger to a spot on the map,
He loaded his gear up and tightened the strap;
He sprang to his feet, to his team gave a cry,
And off they all hiked as I waved them goodbye.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he trekked out of sight—
“Happy Trails to all, and remember, pack light!”