Wednesday, April 13, 2011
More than Those Who Watch for the Morning
I don't know what I was thinking.
My nephew and his father wanted to go on an overnight hiking trip. I had never done this before. Worse yet, they had never done this before. Sure, I'll go.
While still at home I read up as much as I could about the trail we would be on, our start and finish points, and what to pack. I practiced hiking with a heavy pack by walking around Kings Gap with my friend's infant son on my back. I read up on GORP - because what I remembered from my Girl Scout hikes was the trail mix: granola, m&m's, dried fruit and nuts.
On the night before we were going to go, I measured out enough GORP for a week-long trek through the Amazon. This was one overnight, up the Appalachian Trail, then off on a side trail and back again to our starting point.
Instead of packing 10 pound bags of GORP, I should have been doing altitude training because our hike began at the Fontana Dam, right at the edge of the North Carolina and Tennessee border and ascended quickly. In one day we climbed 2,000 brutal, exhausting feet… "Did I volunteer for this torture?"
I was out of shape, but my brother-in-law was hurting. He not only had his backpack,
overloaded with the stuff inexperienced people bring on such treks, but he also had about 50-75lbs of extra body weight he had intended to lose before our little adventure AND the pride he was carrying which was refusing to let him give me anything from his backpack to put in mine.
My nephew was an eager and able 12 year old whose energy knew no bounds nor
understanding of why he kept having to run back and check on the grown-ups. Finally, at a particularly peakid point of our journey, his father acquiesced and let the woman take some of the weight out of his backpack and put it in mine.
Of course, now as we journied on I was the one burdened with not only the added weight in my backpack and the extra pounds of body weight I had meant to lose before our adventure... but also the weight of pride. Because we all know there was NO way I was handing any of that stuff back for him to carry.
As the old phrase goes: Pride goeth before the passing out.
We did manage to make it to the top of our ascent and revelled in our victory. Nephew and I even climbed up a fire tower so we could look out over the vast expanse of mountain sides that surrounded us and all the way down 2,050 feet to Fontana Lake and Dam below.... the terror I felt at that moment will be in a sermon for another day.
As we made the turn down a side trail to make our return to the truck and civilization (read: flushies) we also started to look for the campsite we had reserved… or to be more specific, the clearing that had a painted number on a piece of wood over it.
Here is why it was so important that we find that clearing. At these campsites they had pulley systems set up between two trees so that you could hoist your backpacks into the air in order to keep them away from… the bears.
Seriously, what were we thinking?
Dusk began to descend and unfortunately so did the raindrops. We were just about to camp i the next clearing no matter whether it had a sign on it or not when finally we reached our barren campsite. We managed to grab a bite to eat, change our clothes, set up the tent on seemingly as many roots as possible and haul our edible gear into the trees on their pullies so that the bears didn't get it - just as the rain really started to come down.
We laid down in our cramped tent, my nephew in the middle, and eventually he drifted off to sleep. The two adults in the tent were left to feel every aching part of their body and hear every sound of the forest.
I learned two important things that night about an overnight hike. One, the campfire isn't just for show. It's to ease the body you just abused into a relaxed state so that you can better go to sleep. If the campfire doesn't work then that leads to the second thing I learned - bring Tylenol PM.
As I lay on the ground, feeling every piece of dirt, stone and stick that we had not seen when we put up the tent and wondering if my sleeping bag had been so heavy to carry because of the rocks that seemed to be in its lining, I realized that I was very far away from ever sleeping.
In fact, that night I never slept.
I layed there… and prayed that the rain wouldn’t come in the tent, that at the very least it would keep the bears from looking for lonely pieces of GORP, and that the morning would come so that we could be done with this adventure.
At one desperate point I actually thought to myself, “What if this is the day that the sun doesn’t come up?”
“What if it’s never morning?”
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.