In spite of the cold, drizzly, drippy, foggy day, the hike is relatively easy on this day. With nothing to look at except fog (though that can certainly be beautiful, too) my mind starts to ponder the deep mysteries of the world. I wonder if a toe-jam cleaning business would be lucrative. Hey- everyone has it and someone has to do it. Some people will pay other people to do things like that.
Then I wonder if chickens are indeed warm when it’s cold, since I’ve had real life experiences with the almighty ‘down’ and am not impressed.
I also wonder if it is really raining, or if the fog is just condensating on the leaves and dripping off. I think about the past and worry about the future. I have conversations with myself and have myself in stitches! I’m so funny! If only the world was privy to the wonderful sense of humor deep in the silent recesses of my mind! Its amazing how so much ‘alone time’ can expand your gray matter and have it go to fantastical places it wouldn’t otherwise go.
Finally, I reach the shelter and it’s on a ridge. The wind is howling! My world is still dripping. I exchange pleasantries with the two people in the shelter, I grab my little ziplock, and head toward the privy.
The privy is on the edge of the mountain. There is a ramp leading up to the throne room. There are only three sides to it (no door) and it is built like a stall with space above and below the walls, with the chicken wire cage of poop and toilet paper below. When I sit down on the seat, I’m hit with a blast of cold wind shooting up through the cage and funneling through the toilet seat. (A note to the ladies who might be concerned: we don’t worry about protecting the seat of the privies with sheets of toilet paper out in the woods. Our TP is too precious out here. No luxury to worry about germs and toilet seat diseases.) As I’m sitting there trying to do my business, I’m sitting in a freaking wind tunnel because of the brilliance of the architect who designed this septical beauty on the mountain top. I hang on for dear life as the wind swirls about me and I cling to my precious toilet paper, not wanting to lose one, priceless sheet! By the time I’m done, I am spent…but my afternoon routine is only beginning.
I ford the wind and and head away from the shelter toward some campsites I saw on the way in. They are on the other side of the trail, away from the edge of the mountain. I go back and forth trying to find a level site that is out of the incessant wind! Finally, I decide upon a spot under some low hung trees. I set my pack onto the wet ground. I pull out my saturated tent, string a clothes line, and hang my tent up in spite of knowing that there is no way it has a chance of drying in the extremely moist and drippy air. What else can I do?
I grab my water bottles and water filter and head downhill toward the water source. It’s a spring that is 100 yards downhill. When I arrive, I start filtering my water, and my gloves get wet. It is so cold, I couldn’t bear to take them off…but the wind is not howling down here and I can hear myself think.
When I return to my site, I start setting up my tent. I put my rain jacket and skirt, as well as a piece of plastic I salvaged from a hiker box on the floor of my tent to protect all of my stuff from getting wet. There are little pieces of twigs and leaves stuck to everything, including my hands and water bottles.
I didn’t eat lunch because it was so cold, wet and windy all day. I break my own hiker rule about eating in my tent in the afternoon, and I heat up and eat my lunch and supper hanging outside the door of my tent. I’m stuffed when I am finished eating everything. I look for a place to hang my bear bag, and get it done in about three attempts. My fingers are numb with cold.
I get inside my tent and carefully blow up my sleeping pad and lay out my liner and sleeping pad. There is no way I’m going to make it through the night without them getting wet.
I’m asleep by 6:00. I awaken at 3:00 a.m. I’m so sore and stiff! I do some stretches, realize I’m feeling the cold, hard ground again, so I blow up my sleeping pad again and try to go back to sleep. I notice that the toe box and sides of my down quilt are wet from touching my wet backpack and the wet floor and sides of my tent.
My Mylar blanket is twisted, and it is noisy! I spend about 5 minutes crunching that thing trying to get it flat on top of me without ripping it. I’m glad I’m away from everyone else so I won’t bother them.
All of a sudden, I see a flashlight moving about and I’m frightened. What mad murderer would be out prowling around in the woods at 3:00 a.m.?My heart is pounding. I pray protection for myself and lie there without moving and barely breathing. Then it occurs to me that maybe there are tenters down the way who heard the loud crunching of my Mylar blanket and they were afraid that it is a bear or a murderer, and are shining their flashlight trying to see what is making the noise!
I doze off into fitful slumber. When I awaken on my flat sleeping pad, I hear no wind and no dripping. I perform my morning ritual of breakfast, pack up and poop, opting to forego the walk of shame to the wind tunnel, and preferring a nice private place in the woods this morning.
I’m optimistic since the wind and dripping have ceased. Though there is still some fog, it’s not consuming and I can see further down the trail. I wonder what will be around the bend in the trail today. I also wonder if chickens have dreams, or if they miss their chicken friends when they die.
Such is a day in the life of a hiker.