Kevin and I hiked the Black Mountain Trail at Mount Mitchell last year. His goal was to hike the trail during winter. However, we ended up going the first day of spring – a fact that Jeff has never let us forget (although he and Ronnie bailed at the last minute last year; so what if Jeff was sick – I had to carry 4-person tent by myself! Thanks, guys …) So this year, we did it again – this time, making sure it was winter. This time, Jeff swore he would not miss it for the world – even if he got sick (famous last words). This time, Ronnie was in Africa so no way he could come but Chris agreed to come along and freeze with us.
Day 1, Friday: From puking to pitching tents
The day begins like any other – with work. Jeff had been sick all week – some kind of pukey stomach thing – but he’s better now. He’s still weak and not quite himself, but he’s out of bed and moving around and even back to work.
Chris arrives in Charlotte around 7 p.m., after work. Jeff, Chris and I immediately head to REI to get Chris some last-minute items (no REI in Athens, where he lives. I know, sucks for him …) Then we hit the grocery store and head back to the house to grab our packs and one of the dogs, Breanna. (Didn’t take Kishin because he doesn’t like other dogs, and Kevin was bringing his dog, Althea. Also, Kishin might be a handful on rough parts of the trail with a heavy pack on already. Better safe than sorry, right?)
So we’re at the house, putting the last pieces of our packs together, and Jeff is putting on his hiking shoes. I look at him and – uh oh. Something is wrong. He is pale-faced and his eyes look sunken.
“Do you feel ok?” I ask.
“Should you not go?” I ask.
I know by now that when his mind is made up, it’s made up. So off we go.
We arrive at the campsite around 1 a.m. and it is dark. I forget quite how dark darkness is – I don’t get away from the suburbs enough, apparently. Chris is immediately regretting not purchasing that headlamp from REI we tried to get him to buy … hindsight is 20/20, or nothing, in his case …
This first night we are basically car camping, as this campsite is at the base of the mountain. Obviously, we couldn’t do it any other way at this hour. I’m not about hiking after dark!
Kevin hears us coming and comes to meet us (he arrived about an hour prior). Even with headlamps he can only recognize the outlines of 3 humans and a dog. “Must be you guys,” he says, correctly. Who else is crazy enough to set up camp in the middle of the night?
But crazy or not, that’s what we do, and even the Yuenglings we brought aren’t enough to keep us warm by the campfire Kevin made. As I snuggle into my 0 degree sleeping bag, I am happy that Chris brought an extra blanket and is willing to share, and I am happy that Breanna likes to cuddle while she sleeps, inside the sleeping bag with me, pressing her forehead against my cheek.
Coming tomorrow: Day 2, Saturday: We actually hike.