Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It's All Downhill From Maine: Part 3 - Living After Midnight

Our first night on the trail was at the Horns Pond Lean-tos. One of the great reasons to do the backpacking thing is that you work so hard all day long that the mere act of getting to sit down and go to sleep before it even gets dark, sounds awesome. In fact, something you hear about frequently is "Hiker Midnight" which is 9pm. Believe me, if you hiked up mountains all day long, and then had a no-fire evening in the cold, you would be heading for the sleeping bag as well. I know that it seems that I am not exactly extolling the virtues of this kind of vacation, but what it does is make small things seem fantastic. For example, while hiking along, you happen to find a mint in your pants pocket, well that's almost like finding a $100 bill in normal life. You feel like a lottery winner, and go on smiling for about as long as you can suck on that mint.
So it is, that after hiking all day long, and you come to a grimy, old wooden, 3-sided structure that is totally open to the elements, it feels like home-sweet-home.

After covering about half the distance we had planned, we were exhausted. Walking into the camping area, we were surprised to find tents everywhere but few people in the Lean-tos, in fact, Paul and I had one to ourselves. A few people came by later, looking and took a look at us and kept moving on. I'm pretty sure we didn't smell that bad at this point, maybe it was the scowl on my face, or Paul's eagerness to share some of his stories. Regardless, we settled down to a hot dinner of Mountain House freeze-dried food, and let me tell you, that stuff is like eating a big steak dinner at home. Hikers tend to find this kind of food expensive and at $7-$9 a meal, it is, but when you are only going for a week, Ramen noodles don't quite cut it for a meal after a long day of hiking. Another positive about the freeze-dried food is that it weighs very little. Ramen noodles weigh less, but there is dubious nutrition value and plenty of sodium which results in drinking a lot of water and then having to get out of that sleeping bag at night and go into the dark of the woods and hope that you can relieve yourself before some wild animal gets you.
I was excited on this trip to try out a new piece of gear. Instead of a sleeping bag, I brought a special quilt that was called a "jungle snugpak", well, at least it sounded manly when I ordered it. It came in a army green camouflage color and packed down really small. I was quite proud of myself for saving space and weight for this trip. Something I did not count on though, was the temperature dropping down way below what a Floridian would call a cool evening. In fact, we decided during the trip to totally disregard any information concerning difficulty of hiking or temperatures coming from anyone from Maine or Canada. All I can say about that first night was that I kept getting up and adding more clothes as the night went on, feeling for sure that I would be found frozen in the morning. Paul had loaned me a thing called a "sleeping bag liner", which is kind of like a sock for your whole body. The one he had brought for me was to raise your body temperature 10 degrees in an emergency. That thing was my best friend the whole rest of the trip. Instead of freezing to death, I was able to lay there shivering all night. The only issue I had was that while inside the liner, I couldn't really feel where the quilt was, so many times I would jump up suddenly to find that I had somehow kicked the quilt off. The first night taught me something else....the reason everyone was sleeping in tents instead of the Lean-tos, was that the tents add one more layer of warmth. I used my tent frequently after that first night...

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