Thursday, December 10, 2009

Appalachian trail journal Dec. 1, 2009


Last night, before bedding down, all of us at the shelter heard a flurry of automatic gunfire on the other side of the mountain. The muzzle flashes reflected off low-hanging clouds, Camp Merrill is nearby. Many hikers have encountered soldiers lost on manuevers.

Today is my 37th birthday, and except for the morning, when I said goodbye to the southbounders, I spent the day alone. I didn't sleep a wink last night. I was in the shelter's loft and the night was cold and windy. No matter what I did -- heating a bottle of water and wrapping my feet in my parka -- I couldn't stay warm. The cold wind robbed all accumulated warmth. It snuck in from all directions, creeping through gaps in the shelter walls. I know I wasn't alone in my insomnia. One of the hikers farted frequently and got up often to walk around. The moon was full and bright. I watched the shadows of the trees angle and lengthen throughout the long, long night. Low temps were in the teens and my food bag was caked in frost when I recovered it from the bear cable this morning.

Today's weather, while quite cold, was at least sunny and dry. Good views and relatively easy trail with only a few breath-taking climbs. I keep a fast enough pace to keep breathing through my nose. I even match breathing to my pace, inhaling in 2, 3, or four steps, and exhaling in time as well. If it gets too hard to manage breathing through my nose, I simply slow down. On steep climbs I count my steps and stop for 10 deep breaths every 200 paces. This makes long climbs manageable. I also try to look around at the scenery each time I stop.

The recent rain made the exposed rocks on the mountainside glisten. The sun and lack of foliage made hiking on the sunward side of the mountain a bright and warm experience. Maybe I'll get a tan.

I was about 3-4 miles from Woods Hole Shelter, my planned destination for the night, when I noticed a creekside camp site downhill off the trail. At the same time I looked down on the trail and found a dime. I picked it up, tossed it, and placed it on my palm. Heads I stay. Tails I go. Tails it was, but I stayed anyways. I was too tired to depend on chance. Besides, it's my birthday.

I forgot to mention earlier that one of the southbounders gave me his fleece blanket when he heard about my sleepless night. Even though he didn't know it was my birthday, it was nice to get a birthday present from a total stranger.

I was determined to have a warm nights' sleep. I gathered a huge pile of leaves and placed them on my tent pad in the hopes it would insulate me from the cold ground. It also makes soft bedding. I set my tent up and reinforced the stakes with rocks to keep them secure. I'd heard on the radio a gulf storm was going to blow through, bringing 2-4 inches of rain and strong winds. I hoped my creek side camp was low enough to avoid the brunt of the wind. After dinner, a fire, and reading some Watership Down, I bedded down before dark. I managed to stay awake until darkness, but fell asleep shortly thereafter, around 6 p.m.

1 comment:

Austin said...

Why do you breathe through your nose? To keep from getting dehydrated?