Monday, April 7, 2008

Attack of the Ants!

Before I arrived at the convenience store, I had decided to replace my busted 2 liter bottle with two 1.5 liter bottles. It would give me an extra liter for long, waterless stretches, and I rather like the 1.5 liter sizes.

But the convenience store didn't have 1.5 liter water bottles, so I ended up getting two 1 liter water bottles and a 1 liter bottle of Coke which I'd use for water just as soon as I finished drinking the Coke. I'd have bottles coming out of my ears, but ultimately, I'd be able to carry 5.5 liters of liquid if needed.

I got the ride back to the trail, touching the stop sign I had touched before walking down to the convenience store. Even when I leave the trail on foot and expect to return on foot, I like to touch an object JUST in case I end up scoring a ride back. Usually, I walk back and don't even bother touching it again. After all, I never stopped walking since I touched it the first time.

This time, however, since I got a ride back to the trail, I touched the stop sign and continued north on Hwy 77 to the Porter Gap trailhead and, as far as I'm concerned, the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail.

My road walk was finally over.

There was one water source 3.5 miles up the trail, supposedly the last one for 30 miles, so I figured I'd try to camp near it, use it for breakfast, and stock up with 5.5 liters of water.

The trail was wonderful, even if it was odd. The Pinhoti Trail, my data book warned, used five different types of blazes along its length. Or six if you include the wilderness section not blazed at all because the USFS thought blazes would spoil the 'wilderness experience.' Which makes you wonder, why even provide a trail at all? Not exactly natural either, but it seems absurd to create a trail then not mark or blaze it encouraging hikers to get lost--especially at confusing trail intersections.

The trail, it was decided a few years back, would eventually be blue blazed the whole way since most of the trail already had blue blazes. Which in itself is a strange choice of color since everywhere else a blue blazed trail is ususally short (like less than a mile) that leads to a water source, shelter, or is a shortcut.

It's a strange trail, and the bizarre blazing system is proof of the fact.

The Porter Gap trailhead was marked with blue blazes and diamond shaped markers, painted white with a black chicken print on it. Why chicken footprints? I don't know. Just to prove how bizarre the trail really is, I suppose.

But it was a trail, and a wonderful trail at that. It climbed high on a mountain top, with a view of a beautiful sunset in the making, and I yelled, "Now THIS is what I'm talking about!" into the air. I was positively exubberant.

I reached Chandler Springs, a small community of houses and roads and not at all where I wanted to camp.

While filling up all of my water bottles from a stream passing by, a truck stopped on the bridge over it. The driver got out, unzipped his pants, and urinated into the water.

At least I was filling up with water upstream from the bridge. *shaking head*

He then threw a bottle off the bridge and drove off. The litter angered me more than the peeing did, and I decided to hike at least a couple of more miles until just before sunset.

Which I did, and set up camp on a soft layer of pine needles.

The last couple of nights, ants have become a quite annoying. I check basic things when setting up a tarp such as not to set one up on an anthill, but if you look closely at the ground, you can see thousands of them absolutely everywhere. Without a safe place for the, I set up camp where it's most convenient, but I flick dozens of them off my gear every 15 minutes or so.

I know it probably doesn't do any good since dozens more come to take their place, and another several dozen seem to come by to pick up the carcasses of ants I killed. I'm not sure what they do when I go to sleep at night, but I imagine them crawling over my face or through my hair and, well, I tend to scratch a lot. Probably nothing more than an overactive imagination, but the next morning, I'll wake up and spend the first ten minutes flicking what seems like hundreds of ants of my gear.

Quite the problem they've become, and I'm not sure there's anything I can do to protect myself against their onslaught except carry a fully enclosed tent.

I set up the tarp particularly steady this night. The last weather report I heard predicted isolated thunderstorms the next day, and if it started raining overnight, I wanted to be prepared.


Anonymous said...

Sounds as if you want to include a net hammock in your gear to get off the buggy ground.

Grumpy Grinch

Anonymous said...

Review of one of my scariest 1950's movies, "The Naked Jungle":
Marabunta! - when ants come, the monkeys run!, 11 May 2006

Author: Bogmeister from United States

An old style Hollywood adventure taking place in the Amazon jungles circa year 1901, this is a favorite of mine from TV showings dating back 30 years ago. A portion of the jungles have been tamed by Heston's character as the story begins; he's carved out his own little kingdom with sweat and blood, with the help of local natives, and now his new wife (Parker), married by proxy, arrives. This is one of Heston's better characters: he's well-suited to play this proud, often arrogant male, driven to build a personal empire to perhaps compensate for the inherent failings of such men. His main weakness is he knows nothing about women, and Parker, almost regal in her bearing, represents a kind of strength and sophistication he is obviously not accustomed to. Their meeting and slowly building towards a mutual respect after a very rough beginning is in itself an interesting story, but this exotic adventure throws in a spectacular menace to add suspense to the whole thing. The jungle, as it turns out, allows Heston only 15 years of conquest before fighting back in 'nature-gone-amok' style similar to all the future eco-terror pictures of the later seventies.

By now, everyone knows that this menace is the soldier ant, or 'marabunta' as it's mysteriously referred to in the middle of the story. I think even audiences who saw this back in '54 were probably aware of what the threat was beforehand, as well. But it's not revealed during the film until after several ominous yet uninformative references by the main characters. It comes across as some huge monstrous threat - which indeed it is - billions upon billions of these ants merge together to form a monster 20 miles long and 2 miles wide. As the local commissioner (Conrad) states, with quavering voice, these ants actually think, in military fashion. Nothing stands in its way and we mean nothing. But, of course, if anyone is going to give it the all-American try, it's Heston (yes, he's a character who grew up in South America, but he's strictly the U.S.of A breed - the rugged individual). This builds towards a literal war between Heston's resources and the invading army of ants, and it's a grand finale. It's interesting that this came out about the same time as "Them," a sci-fi tale about giant ants. But the ants here are real - this may make them all the more terrifying. See also "Phase IV," twenty years later, for a different take on even more intelligent ants.

Grumpy Grinch

Teresa said...

In Connecticut, blue is reserved for the very longest trails. Blue was chosen by experiment one evening a long time ago (1930s or earlier) - the light blue blazes were visible the longest as it got dark. There are about 800 miles of "Blue-Blazed" trails in the system (not bad for such a tiny state).

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Heston, I heard on the radio this morning that he's died.


Anonymous said...

Apparently, the average human swallows several spiders in their sleep during their lives. Maybe ants may happen to our brave tortuga.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

The Atlas Quest Widget says "Which was is North".
Quite appropriate considering that you always hike north when traveling as a thru hiker :)

Be grateful the ants you dealt with weren't fire ants...

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers