Tuesday, June 10, 2008
It's Morning. I'm a Dumbass.
If you look carefully, you'll see the trail on the other side of the stream from where I shot this from our campsite. After a quick meal of oatmeal in the pouch and packing up camp we threw on our packs and... mine broke. It wasn't a major problem. It was just the adjustable strap that cinched the pack tight against my right shoulder. We were able to tie it off to where the pack was still comfortable and even if we hadn't, it would have been more than serviceable. It was just a bit annoying because the pack I rented was unused before I strapped it on for the first time. I was the first user and I managed to break it by just wearing it. Nice.
You'll also notice that I'm alive and apparently in a good mood. Mickey's tarp idea worked. I figured it would, given his experience in the activity in which we were partaking, but I am a little surprised that I woke up dry after two thunderstorms passed through during the night. If we'd been in a more exposed location where the wind could have gotten to us it may not have been so effective, but as it was we never even felt a breeze. It didn't help my clothes dry out much, but then neither would a tent given the humidity. I had to give Mickey credit on the tarp thing.
Oh, and from the angle of the above photo, you can't tell it, but my glasses are now crooked. "Why?" you ask? Because I lost them in four feet of cold water, stepped on them, knocked out a lens and made Mickey find them for me. True story. We stopped for a swim break yesterday afternoon and I was good to check my pockets for things that shouldn't be wet and take off my watch before jumping in, but somehow I forgot to take off my glasses. I popped up gasping from the coldness of the water and took a few steps before realizing that I hadn't taken off my glasses but I couldn't see the tree leaves any more. Shit. Mickey quickly found the frame with the one lens still attached, but when he found the other lens and tried to grab it, he missed and the clear lens under four feet of clear water disappeared. Mickey searched until he was shivering too much to keep the surface of the water still enough to see and I kept searching for a while longer because I'm fatter and better suited to retaining body heat. I realized that maybe if I took a stick and moved it around the bottom that I might notice the lens moving. It didn't work. Part of it was because I didn't have my glasses on. Part of it is that I didn't look in the right place. After Mickey warmed up and I was ready to quit and just walk hazily through the rest of the hike, he went back in and with my stick found my lens. While I held the stick next to the lens, he dove down, grabbed the lens and handed it over. I could have kissed him, but that would have been a little weird and we still had 24 hours to spend in each other's exclusive company. Awkwardness needed to be avoided at all costs. Instead I went back to shore and popped the lens back into the slightly warped frame. Then, while he was filtering water for our bottles, I tried to bend the frame back into shape and popped the lens back into the water. Luckily, this time it was just an inch of water and I was able to find it before Mickey even finished filtering water, but I felt like an idiot.
If it's starting to sound like Mickey was doing all of the work, well, he kind of was. He cooked dinner. He filtered water. He found the idiot's broken glasses and the missing lens. When it turned out that I was a little useless tying knots, he even did most of the work setting up our minimalist camp. I really hope my ineptitude was tolerated, because I loved every minute of the trip (except the glasses ordeal, but you've got to admit it makes a great story) and would love to do it again.
You may also notice that there aren't a lot of photos this time around. There's a reason for that. Remember how I said that we basically started at the head of the river and worked our way downstream? Well, we never got deeper than mid-shin in our crossings on Monday and we kept our cameras in easy reach and took plenty of photos. By the second day the stream had become a much bigger thing and we were more likely to be crossing knee-deep or even nearly waist-deep water and often across erosion-slicked slabs of bedrock instead of the traction-friendly gravel and small cobbles upstream. The cameras went into waterproof bags pretty early in the day and only came out for special occasions. I did get a video of Mickey crossing one of the fords, although it was far from the deepest of the trip, and a video of the rapids at the same crossing.
After that, the main photos are just of us being finished. We piled our gear into Mickey's truck, I sorted out his gear and gave it back to him and we worked our way back to my car at the other end of the trail so we could go home...
Where we discovered that my car had a flat tire. Great. After putting on the spare, I finally rolled out of the WMA and got to Athens to visit Hank around 8 p.m. I think we exited the trail somewhere around 3 p.m. That kind of sucked. Luckily, Hank was telecommuting the next day so it wasn't like I showed up to watch him get ready to go to bed to prepare for his pre-dawn commute. Instead, we went out to My Pie, an interesting pizza place near his house, and down to the square to have a couple of beers at Trappeze, a really cool beer geek bar. I even got to play Guitar Hero for the first time. Hank has Guitar Hero III for the Wii. I even managed to work up to being good enough to be able to finish a couple of the easier songs. I rock so hard it makes my head hurt.
Actually, the only bad part about the day (because the glasses part was yesterday), was the fact that every time I sat or stood still for more than a couple of minutes, my legs stove up so badly that I could barely walk. I did a lot of stiff-legged waddling as I worked my legs loose every time after I sat down. Still, between the backpacking and visiting Hank, this was one of the best trips I've had in a long time. I am looking forward to getting home to seeing K and the kid, though.
P.S. If I made it sound like Mickey was condescending or the like, it was purely just for the sake of the story. The truth is, he was really cool during the entire trip. I'd been a little self-conscious at the beginning because I knew I wasn't experienced with serious hiking like he was. I don't think I did too poorly, though. Turns out that I only embarrassed myself on the really steep climbs. I kept up without trouble the rest of the time.