…from hiking, from rain, from mice.

Last night was one of the worst nights trying to sleep on the trail. The mice that came to visit me while I was cooking dinner never went away. All night long they were carrying acorns from outside and stashing them in various places in the shelter for the winter. But two of their activities had me beyond my wits end. Apparently mice are not good at carrying acorns as they kept dropping them all night long, one about every 10 or 15 minutes. The other was in the dark they assumed that my fingers were also acorns and would come and try to grab them from me while I was trying to sleep. If you want to know how to be wide awake in a nanosecond try having a mouse grab your finger. After the third time I’d had enough and couldn’t take it anymore. I figured out a way to rig my hammock inside the shelter so that I could sleep in it still on the floor but having a barrier between me and the mice. It worked well but their falling nuts all night long still kept me awake.

The rain did finally stop just before sunrise but with the lack of sleep and the deep hollow that the shelter was in made me get a 30 minute delayed start in the morning. I didn’t start hiking till about 7:45. I wanted to get out earlier because today Karen was coming to pick me up at Sam’s Gap just 12 miles ahead.

Yes, you read that right. Karen has driven up to North Carolina to meet me for a few days while I’m in the stretch near our place in Burnsville. It looks like I will be able to make Sam’s Gap just a few hours after lunch so that will give us some time to visit.

While it wasn’t actually raining during the day the ground was still wet and saturated and the vegetation was covered with dew. Since I knew I would have laundry soon I decided to put on a dry pair of socks instead of the wet pair I’ve been wearing the last 2 days. It made a big difference too. My feet were warm and comfortable for pretty much the whole day and even though they got a little damp they stayed mostly dry.

There are two big climbs from where I was to get to Sam’s Gap and I wasn’t sure I would have enough energy to make them in good enough time since I got almost no sleep the night before. But the climbs were not as bad as I thought and I was able to make good time most of the day.

The original estimate for arriving at Sam’s Gap was 2:00 p.m. and I was able to make it at 2:15. Not bad for starting 30 minutes late and not having any sleep.

I had hiked this section 2 years before and yet everything looked a little bit different this time. While most areas of the trail were overgrown since COVID kept many of the volunteers away for much of the summer, this stretch seemed relatively weed-free. Two years ago I remember it being overrun with stinging nettles. I also noticed a lot more steps had been installed on the trail. I am guessing most of these improvements were actually done last year.

After making Sam’s Gap at 2:15 Karen rolled up just a few minutes after I arrived. She had brought a roast beef sandwich and a bottle of Gatorade which I devoured pretty quickly. A quick drive to the house, a few beers and a steak later, and I’m ready for bed. And this time I’m expecting to sleep like a log, not like an acorn.