Why I dropped my pants for the world to see

Okay, so I promised you the other day I’d tell you about dropping my pants. So I’ll start this blog post by telling you about that part.

Scott, Jeff and I were hiking in the Great Basalm Mountains. During one break we were all standing on the trail and we heard a weird noise. Coming from me. Well, my backpack, specifically. It sounded like a squeaking/pressure releasing/buzzing sound. We concluded it was from my water bladder (which is this, for those who don’t know). We kept hiking.

About 45 minutes later we reached the summit of Tennent Mountain. An elevation of 6,040, it was one of the most beautiful views around. The mountain is bald, meaning without trees that hinder the view. So you can see for miles around. Anyone coming up or down the trail is visible. Here’s what it looked like at the top:

Tennent Mountain
Scott naps at the summit of Tennent Mountain

There’s a small bed of rocks, which you see in the picture, and otherwise you see rolling hills and trails leading down the mountain and toward the other peaks. We decided to take a rest break at the summit. I put my pack down and poked around inside for some snacks, and I heard my water bladder acting up again. Oddly, with the way the mountain carries sound, it almost sounded like someone playing music at the bottom of the mountain – I heard a buzzing, speaker-ish sound. I asked Scott if he could hear it and he could – silly bladder. I figured it was just the pressure of the water coming out and my stuff being pressed against the bladder itself inside my pack.

Then, Scott moved over to sit on a different rock, which happened to be beside my pack, and I was sitting on the other side of him. Jeff was in front of us, reclining on another rock. Then, I heard it again.

Except this time, I was far enough away from my pack to know that it wasn’t my bladder. This was way too loud. And it was a distinct buzzing sound. “Is there a bug in my shoe?” I asked and started looking around, wondering if I’d somehow trapped a fly between the grooves of the hiking boot. I didn’t see anything. I ran my hands over my thighs and felt something sticking out of my pants, almost like a splinter or something, but I didn’t think much of it. We’d hiked through plenty of brush over the past two days; in fact, most of the hikers we’d encountered had scratched-up legs and arms. I did feel an odd bump in my pants though, and was it my imagination or did that bump move?

Suddenly it hit me. “Oh my god there’s a bug in my pants!” I yelped and jumped up. I somehow managed to do a quick mental check of the underwear I’d put on that morning (Under Armour boy shorts; plenty of coverage – glad I wasn’t wearing a thong! But even a thong wouldn’t have stopped me …), and I unbuckled my pants and flung them down to my knees.

And I saw a great big … nothing. No bug. No reason for buzzing. No bump.

How embarassing. I looked down and noticed the corner of the pocket of my hiking pants on the inside, where it comes together in a square with a little extra thread. That was the bump I’d felt. My stupid fear of bugs and I’d dropped my pants on the top of a mountain.

Of course, Scott was gentleman enough not to look, but who knows who else was in eyesight of my little display?

Oh well, I thought, it actually was pretty damn funny if I think about it. I just dropped my pants for no reason.

So I pulled them back on, buckled them, and sat down with as much grace as I could muster. To be honest, I was laughing my ass off. I’ve always had an irrational fear of bugs, bees especially, so the supposed “buzzing” had caused panicky behavior. Scott and Jeff had a great laugh too.

But then – I heard it again. Louder and angrier sounding than ever. And I most definitely felt my pants move. “Oh my God there is a bug in my pants!”

Jumped up again. Flung pants down to knees again. And there it was, on the inside of my pants: A bee. My hands quivering, I reached down and shook my pants. And it flew off – fast, off to the edge of the mountain and over the top of it. It was just as happy to get away from me as I was from it.

And there you have it, folks – why I dropped my pants – twice – for the whole world to see. And I am just thanking my lucky stars I did not get stung. I’ve only been stung once, in college, and Kate and Amy can attest it was not a pretty sight – I spent the entire day in bed after going down to the campus infirmary for Benedryl. I would hope my tolerance for pain is a little better now (I mean, c’mon, if I can handle this …) but I certainly didn’t want to test it on top of a mountain.

Jeff commented to Scott later that the bee probably did sting me, and it probably was just turned around and stung my pants instead of me. The next day I remembered the “splinter” I’d felt and figured Jeff was probably right. Shiver.

So, let me tell you about the rest of the trip. Our trip was almost foiled the first night when we discovered the Blue Ridge Parkway closed (which we’d known due to Jeff’s research but we were hoping maybe it wasn’t true.) We ended up car camping the first night off of 276 and it was my first night sleeping in the hammock outside. It was absolutely amazing. Being able to see the moon all night long by just opening my eyes was so beautiful. There were some small bushes next to the hammock and I discovered that by holding one of the branches I could sway myself back and forth. The stars were beautiful and there was a creek not too far from us that we could hear all night long. And the scaredy-cat part of me was relieved that there were people camping with dogs at a campsite close by.

I look terrible in this photo, but had to show off my hammock ...

The next day we packed up from the campsite and headed down toward Brevard to pour over the map and look up Plan B if the roads hadn’t reopened. On the way down we stopped and visited a waterfall:

Around that time I started feeling like we weren’t really giving Scott a “true” representation of backpacking. I mean, sleeping by the car, driving to a waterfall, and now we’re about to head into town? With bathrooms and electricity and everything? He was never going to believe that we knew how to “rough it.” This was his first backpacking trip so I really wanted to make sure he got the true experience. We hadn’t even hiked yet – one of my favorite parts! If we weren’t burning calories it wasn’t worth it!

We got to Brevard and stopped in at a coffeeshop to get macchiatos and a bathroom break and to regroup. Jeff called and found out they’d reopened 215, which was an alternate route to where we wanted to go. Success! Finally, Great Basalms, here we come!

We ended up parking at Sam Knob parking lot and then started hiking on an “easy” trail. This was Jeff’s attempt to break Scott in slowly to the hiking experience. He did just fine, though – he’s a runner, and I’ve always found a correlation in the endurance department. We took off toward Shining Rock, and the first part of the trail was super easy. We found an area where the Art Loeb trail connected with some other trails, and we decided that might be a good place to camp. Just in case we changed our minds, though, we didn’t trade our packs for summit packs.

At that point the trail became tougher. I was relieved – now Scott was getting to experience what we were used to experiencing. The trail was steeper and skinnier and it was a great workout. We found a clearing near the top where we took a load off to relax for a moment and Jeff called Chadd and Whitney to make sure they were on their way (he found a smidgin of signal).

In the foreground is a lean-to someone built/left.
Shining Rock clearing
You can kind of see some of the trash that others left behind in this photo. There was a lot more of it, in this clearing and others. Not cool, other campers.

Knowing Chadd and Whitney were on the way, we kept going up to the peak at Shining Rock. It was absolutely beautiful! Quartz rock everywhere that we climbed to get to the top.

Shining rock

Shining Rock

Shining Rock

 

It was amazing, if you can’t tell that from the pictures.

Retraced some of our steps, found our original camping spot, and set up for the night. It was nice having plenty of daylight left to get everything set up – unlike winter camping, where the days end very quickly when that sun dips down below the mountain.

That night got a lot colder than the previous night, and I had a harder time sleeping. Scott and Jeff did, too. I’m still loving my hammock, though! Blaming the lack of sleep on the feeling of being much further away from the car/other campers, etc.

The next morning was still chilly so we stayed in our sleeping bags for coffee and breakfast.

Jeff makes coffee and breakfast

Oatmeal at camp

Scott is ready for breakfast

After a leisurely morning of coffee and oatmeal (my kind of morning!), we packed up camp and hit the trails. If I’d thought Saturday was somewhat easy, not to worry – Sunday was a great challenge. We hiked down the rest of Shining Rock, then hiked to the summit of Grassy Cove Top. Grassy Cove Top was not so grassy, but was blackened as a result of fire.

Grassy Cove Top

Blackened area on Grassy Cove Top

From there we climbed to another peak (I’m really not sure what the name of it was), and we met some new friends along the way (a Marine, his wife, and their two golden retrievers.)

Then we climbed Tennent Mountain (I told you all about that one), and we finished up the day by climbing Black Basalm Knob.

Black Basalm Knob summit

Black Basalm Knob
See how dirty their arms and pants are? That's from Grassy Cove Top ashes.

From there, we headed down the mountain and to the parking lot, where we’d left the Jeep. I only wish Chadd and Whitney had been able to find us (we found out later they’d slept on Tennent Mountain, having climbed the peaks the opposite direction that we did.)

The best part: Scott loves camping and can’t wait to do it again! When’s the next trip?