Day 5 - "Trail Names"

Updated: Jun 18

Today started off very poorly. I was tired, and I ended up forgetting my Paracord (simple cordage which was originally created for use in parachutes) at our camp. I had hung up our food bags the night before and was so anxious to eat breakfast in the morning that I forgot to pack it back up after retrieving the bags. They say that the trail provides, but it seems as if it takes just as well.


Hanging food bags at night is necessary to keep bears, mice, and other creatures from stealing and eating it. It is not uncommon for mice to chew through layers of tent, backpack, and stuff sack in order to retrieve a morsal of Poptart. Bears aren’t usually a problem, but certainly can be if they are especially hungry or in an area where they have become used to humans and their food. Either way, its better to be safe!


The hike today was particularly tiring, but I did very well! I think my body is finally starting to get used to the unique requirements of backpacking. First, we hiked up Moose Mountain (mile 1761.0) which wasn’t too hard and yielded some pretty views of the countryside. After Moose Mountain we hiked up a real steep one which practically killed me. It was especially disheartening when Aeriel told me that Smarts Mountain, which would be our last climb for the day, was twice as tall and just as steep…


We ate lunch about 10 miles in at the edge of a cliff called Holts Ledge. Again, the view was stunning. Looking over the expanse of land and mountains extending in every direction in front of you yields a feeling that can’t quite be described. Distance takes on a new meaning in the wilderness.


After lunch we began our hike to the foot of Smart Mountain. I had to get water, so Paco and Goat Gurrl started up the 2000ft mountain without me. “Paco” is my father’s trail name, and “Goat Gurrl” is my sister’s. Trail names are a tradition on many hiking trails and are often given based on the stories or oddities of the individual hiker


My Sawyer Mini, our water filter of choice, is super annoying. It filters water at about the speed I think a snail might hike up the mountain (so not much faster than me). Filtering water is quite an annoying task but is a simple safety measure one can take to avoid picking up any unwanted parasites or diseases. I don’t imagine that it is so necessary at beautiful mountain streams such as the ones we have passed, but at lower elevations or near cow fields it is basically required!


While I was struggling to get the Sawyer Mini to filter water at anything more than a snail’s pace, and considering collecting water straight from the brook, I met two older guys going the same place for the night I was: The Fire Wardens Cabin. Noticing my struggles, the younger of the two suggested that I buy the Sawyer Squeeze, a slightly heavier but much less annoying version of the same filter. That sounded like a good idea to me.


The climb up was tiring, but I found a second tank of gas somewhere deep inside of me and managed to catch up to and beat both Paco and Goat-Gurrl to the top!! That felt quite nice. Once the summit was reached, we found the old cabin we had heard about. It seemed so dark and sad, the inside was illuminated by only two grimed up windows at its front, and it appeared as if it had been forgotten about by all except those few travelers who happened upon it. Because of the cabin’s drab appearance, all three of us decided we would sleep in the fire watchers tower which stood about 60 or 80 feet above us.


This fire tower, which has been out of official use for years, is a steel structure with a rickety wooden hut at the very top. The stairs to the top are narrow and wind up and up to a small trap door that opens to the inside of the hut. Occasionally a stiff breeze comes and sways the tower back and forth. It seems like it will fall at any second. It is a nerve-wracking experience. Hopefully it won’t choose this night to do so! We have a full 360-degree view from the windows (some of which are broken) and can see both the distances we have come and the distances we have yet to go. The view is wonderful.


Altogether we went 17 miles today, up and down the hardest mountains so far. I’m proud. The hardest hike and the best views I have yet to experience.


 

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