Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 7 - It's A Long Way To The Top When It's Raining

I poked my nose out of my sleeping bag and took a quick glance out of the shelter and drew a sigh of relief. Our food bag was still hanging from a tree as we left it the night before. For some strange reason, I'd never thought to worry about raccoons and rats eating up all of our food and us slowly starving to death in the least until last night. I'm not sure if it was from stories told around fire circle or what, but I had become deeply attuned to the fact that we needed food and water...a lot of it, and something stupid like a twisted ankle or rats getting our food could be a really big deal. But, the food was still there, probably because of Paul's home built contraption that kind of reminded me of things we do with bird feeders to keep the squirrels off them. Only the ones I made were never good enough to keep the squirrels out.
I was now fully awake and saw that we really had it made at this place, a shelter to ourselves, right next to a stream that supplied the kind of noise all night that really helped you sleep. I was feeling pretty good about the trip at this point, not having any idea that this was the last good night for a long time. It was nice and cool in the early morning twilight, just standing there drinking my coffee and considering the possibility that it would stay this nice while we hiked up the mountain. I knew we had a long trek this day and we had to carry a lot of water. The big hope was when we reached the top, the shelter would either be empty or populated by friendly backpackers with great stories to share.
Paul woke up feeling good as well, and we were high spirited as we crossed the stream and started the ascent. One thing I noticed this trip, the rain was doing something wonderful for the vegetation. There were so many flowers blooming everywhere that it put the best gardening work I'd seen in a fancy neighborhood to shame. The humidity was more like Florida than what I had hoped for, but if there was one thing I really wasn't happy about, it was snakes. I ran across at least 4 in that one day, and what bothered me the most is that I usually didn't see them until I was almost standing on them...and by then I was looking for snakes! I'm sure they were all wonderful non-poisonous species that are great for the environment, but there must be a good reason for the instinctive reaction to scream like a little girl and try to climb the nearest tree whenever I see one. I have a feeling that snakes can climb trees no problem at all, but that is the first move I make. I was so busy looking for snakes on the ground that I almost missed a deer that was standing right near us at one point. She was like a duck at the local park, she was busy eating and when we got too close, she moved about five feet away, no more. Yeah, the snakes were the same way. None of that "they are just as afraid of you", they'd barely give an inch to let you get by. I was definitely getting that 'welcome to Virginia, now go home' vibe from the animals in the woods.

After what seemed like a really long hot hike, we came to a big clearing in the woods, and you could easily tell that many people had come here before us. Logs were set out for sitting and a young family was there ahead of us, filling up their water containers from the nearby spring. We spoke for a bit about the pros and cons of our different filtering systems, Paul and I deciding that we needed something that worked better than our Sawyer filters which seemed to take forever to filter the water. After they left, Paul and I started thinking about where they were heading and just how crowded was that shelter going to be.
Right about now, you might be wondering why anybody would want to sleep in one of those creepy old shelters when we were carrying expensive tents on our backs. The reason is simple: rain. No tent handles rain perfectly, and if it rains hard, your stuff gets wet. No matter what, you would be packing up a wet tent in the morning...but if you had a shelter, you had it made, everything stayed dry. The only problem was, everybody on the trail was thinking the exact same thing.
I was doing the math in my head, but Paul was way ahead of me saying, "Don't worry, they will make room for us if it's raining" and then goes into a long story about people getting kicked out of a shelter while it was still raining because they had been there too long....I wasn't sure what part of that story was meant to be reassuring, but it wasn't working for me. It was only lunchtime, and I was already getting the images of being on top of a mountain without a place to sleep, while thunder and lightning cracked all around. And there it was, another day of worrying about the near future...only this was real stuff, like survival as opposed to worrying about who my new boss might be.
As we were leaving the clearing, I had my first and only accidental trail magic episode! I've lost things, but never found anything useful before. There right in front of me was a tiny flashlight, a keychain sized thing, a little LED thingy that ran on a watch battery. Something that I didn't need, but I picked it up just in case....

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