Backpacking requires that I pack everything I could possibly need into a pack and carry it for an entire journey. It isn't an easy job. By the time I had packed a first aid kit, food, clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillows, stove, tent, and water, my pack weighed in at 34 pounds and Jennie's weighed 17.
It isn't easy talking Jennie into this kind of trip, and I must be some kind of super mediator when you think about it. Somehow, I have the ability to talk my wife into putting 15-20 pounds on her back and hiking up a steep mountain for six hours straight with the promise of Alfredo noodles and a packet of tuna and a few photo opportunities. Perhaps I should take my magic mediating skills to Washington. All together, our trip was a three day, 15 mile journey.
Though Jennie enjoys the hike once we are out there, she really only goes so I don't have to go by myself. She would admit that she hates everything about it while we are climbing, and I admit that it truly is exhausting. Sweating and out of breath, she mumbles her disdain and occasionally shouts, "Is that bear poop? Oh Paul, I don't want to see any bears.Q" The first day, I can only comfort her with lies: "No honey. That is (insert random animal here) poop. We have nothing to worry about." Admitting that the big pile of berry-seed droppings belongs to a bear would only add to the joys of hearing her worry.
Our first night was spent in a shelter. This night, we shared the shelter with a father and son from Cincinnati, and two brothers from South Carolina, who have hiked together since 1974, and their nephew. All the shelters in the park are three sided with two sleeping platforms, and they accommodate twelve hikers. While hearing and sharing stories with the other hikers, Jennie and I learned about hand-slung chitlins from One of the South Carolina men. Evidently, hand-slung means they spin it over head to clean the intestines of feces-yuck.
We spent the next night at a tent site next to a roaring mountain creek. We arrived early (around 2pm) and had the site, and the whole mountainside, pretty much to ourselves. Unplugged from technology, we spent the entire afternoon playing Yahtzee, talking, and reading-it was very nice.
Day three has Jennie saying that she can't wait for a shower for the millionth time. Not showering doesn't bother me like it does her, but I admit that I was ripening quite well. We had received news from other hikers that a beehive was a little further down the trail, and this made me nervous. Last year, a hornet's nest had taught me that I have an allergy to bees. This nest was on the first green of a local golf course, and after a fit of punching myself in the ear while trying to rid myself of the winged tasers, I wound up delirious and sitting on the clubhouse floor. Unfortunately, my allergy pin was in the van--not in the backpack.
We packed up and left at daylight and successfully snuck past the bees. Now that the end of the hike was near, I admitted to Jennie that much of the seedy droppings we saw on the trail indeed came from bears. "I knew it!" She said.
If you know me, and most of you don't, I love to tease and aggravate most anyone around me. Approaching a bridge, I decided to tease her a bit. I said, "Wouldn't it be something if right when I stepped on the bridge there was a bear on the other side, and we just stood locked in a staring contest both refusing to give in to the other one? And then the bear dropped one of those seedy piles while he was staring at me, and in an act of defiance I did it too?" I expected to hear Jennie call me an idiot, but instead she screamed and squealed, "Oh my God. There's a bear!" There actually was a bear and her three cubs just off the trail on the other side of the bridge. We backed up and tried to take some pictures, but we were too far away. The park's website suggests holding your pack over head and yelling to run off bears; so, after some yelling and some caveman like dancing with my hiking sticks, the bear and her cubs ran off--so exciting. Thus ended our wild mountain journey.