Some Appalachian Trail hikers always stay in the shelters. Others avoid them. Me, I’m a switch hitter.
Shelters are fine if they aren’t too crowded or the Muppet Show doesn’t show up like it did at Pass Mountain Hut. In the rain, there’s no wet tent to strike, but the are colder. Then there’s the mice. They’ll enter stage right in another act.
Last night I reached the Jerry Corbin shelter about 4:15 pm. I’m hiking much faster now. That’s plenty of time to get water, set up the bed roll and eat before dark which ranges between 5:00 and 6 pm depending on cloud cover.
As I approached I noticed a 3-person Big Agnes tent in the tenting area. I called “Hello!” to announce company. A young man’s voice responded, “Please don’t pitch your tent anywhere near me. I hate snorers.” That was an unusual request. I was planning to sleep in the shelter anyway because I had 15 hard miles to march today.
No face, just a voice and no food bag hung on the bear cables. Maybe I’ll see this guy at dinner. People tend to gather and cook at the shelter picnic table. No show by Mr. Antisocial. No loss.
I hit the hay at 6:30 pm (hiker midnight) and flipped on my iPod to Simon Schama’s history of Great Britian and crashed.
Flash forward to 11:15 pm. I hear in the distance what sounded like a low flying European helicopter, but the sound wasn’t quite right. Then BANG, two ATVs drove on the AT into our area. One pulled a trailer. The noise was deafening, like say a snorer on steroids!
It took me a minute to realize we were in that part of Tennessee that’s always disliked hikers. Only human foot traffic is permitted on the trail. Period. No hunting either.
After a couple minutes the mounted patrol roared ahead on the AT. I assumed they’d be back. They boomeranged at 12:45 am. This time they blasted through camp at high speed. That’ll reach Mr. Antisocial that there are worse things than snoring, I thought. I went back to sleep.
As I hiked out I realized that our Noisemakers were locals illegally hunting. The pattern of their tracks indicates one was the hunter. The other the beater. Fortunately, I could tell by the bouncing noises that the trailer was empty.
Not a mouse turned up in the shelter last night. I wondered why? The night before they sounded like the Mongolian hordes. While I had a headlamp staredown with one, the rest of the army sounded like it was trying to dig through the tin roof. Finally, after more than an hour, I heard a hickory nut take a rolling plunge down the slope.
Game. Set. Match. Blissful tranquility!!!
BTW, as I was typing this I heard a huge tree go down in the proximate vicinity. I played my barking dog app just in case. 🙂