Axe murderes and ice storms and bears, oh my!

Previously I brought you Day 1 and Day 2 of our hiking trip to Mount Mitchell. Today I bring you Day 3, sadly, the final day this round.

Day 3, Sunday: Do we have to go back to reality?

After leaving the warm campfire Saturday night, I finally fall asleep, warm in my sleeping bag, when Chris shakes me awake sometime in the middle of the night.  “I hear footsteps,” he whispers.

“What? WHAT?” I start panicking. I can hear Jeff snoring, so I know it’s not him walking around. Logically, it’s either Kevin or one of the two guys that were staying at the campsite next to us. But for some reason, this logic does not seem to calm me down. I want to call out Kevin’s name but I’m scared – what if it’s not him? I have no idea why I am scared – do I think a bear put on someone’s hiking boots and starting stomping around? Am I scared a murderer hiked up to our campsite and is about to start axing our tent? (I blame Elwood and Heather for that image). And why is Chris waking me up to tell me about the scary noises? Shouldn’t it be vice versa?

One thing I’ve unfortunately learned recently about myself is I seem to have a slight case of clausterphobia, which has seemed to manifest when I’m confined inside a sleeping bag which is confined inside of a tent. If I don’t think about it, I’m fine, but the second the thought enters my mind – I feel like I can’t breathe. I felt it a little the first night and decided to take my bathroom break then. This night, I feel it amid the footsteps incident. No way in hell I’m going out there. Because you know, the walls of the tent are really protecting me from intruders and all.

I have slept at this campsite twice, and both times I’ve awoken in the middle of the night with a completely untrue perspective of where I am. Both times, I’ve imagined the tent hanging of the edge of a very steep cliff, and just one strong wind gust is all it would take to make me turn to the dog and say, “Breanna? I don’t think we’re in North Carolina anymore …”Icy morning

This night, I also feel as if the tent is suddenly very far away from Kevin and Jeff, who are on the other side of the campfire. The wind is blowly loudly, muffling Jeff’s snoring. I feel we could scream for help and they would not hear us. This is, of course, completely irrational – we are probably 10 steps from the campfire. I tell Kevin this the next morning and he says, “Of course we would have heard you. Now, whether we would have helped you is another story …”

Despite all the panic and drama going on inside my head, I’m finally able to fall asleep again. Until I am awakened again, this time by the sound of solid precipitation hitting the tent. Hmm. What was this laughter right before bed about the clear skies and the thought that there would be no bad weather? From the sound of this, it’s more ice than snow. Well, I’m warm in my sleeping bag, so I’ll just sleep some more. Nothing we can do about it now!

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Finally, morning comes, and Chris very kindly volunteers to take Breanna out for a potty break (probably because he needed one as well. Either way, I’m very, very grateful.) After a little while, I decide to go ahead and get up asJeff, Kevin, Chris well. I unzip the tent and peek under the rainfly. There’s a thin layer of ice everywhere – no white fluffy snow (which would have been fun!), no this is solid ice. Pretty, though. We have oatmeal and coffee by the fire and then decide a summit hike is probably out of the question this trip. Not only do we risk the hike getting icier and scarier on the way up, but we’re running out of time. Some of us have to work on Monday and we can’t be gone too long.

We pack up camp, filter and purify some water for the hike down, and take off. The hike down is pretty uneventful. Breanna is a help on the hike up, pulling and providing leverage, but on the hike down she threatens to pull me right to the ground. Jeff and Chris take turns holding her leash, but she’s so accustomed to being near me that even with them holding her she manages to stay right next to me as much as she can. And when I’m behind her, she walks slowly to wait for me. She is a very loyal dog, that’s for sure! Either that or she wonders if I’ll actually make it off the mountain without her …

But we do make it, off the mountain, with only one fall (Kevin, who acts like it’s no big deal. I’d have been complaining the whole way down after that.) We pile in cars and decide to drive to the summit, so at least we would have seen it. This isn’t to happen today though – the road is closed because of bad weather. (See how hard core we are?!?)

So instead, we drive to Waffle House, where Chris orders: You guessed it! Sausage.

Coming soon: One last blog post about this, where I’ll talk about my new gear: what worked, what didn’t, and why I would marry REI if one could marry a store.