Friday, July 3, 2015

Day 46: The Butterfly Effect

April 22: It didn’t rain during the night—yea! Weather forecasts included a slight chance of rain and I took my chances by not setting up my tarp, so I was glad no rain materialized. The morning broke with clear, blue skies. Life was good!

Along this stretch of trail early in the morning, we quietly passed the 1/4 mark of the trail. =)

I got a head start on the trail before the Four Horsemen, mostly because they were playing around trying to get a fire started. I love a fire as much as the next guy, but I prefer my campfires at night where I can linger around to enjoy them. In the morning, I just want to get hiking, which is what I did.

An hour or two into my hiking, though, I noticed a large bone from—what I hoped and guessed was a cow—tucked behind a log and mostly hidden from view. If I had to guess, I’d say it came from the pelvis of a cow, but I’m no expert on cow anatomy or bones so don’t quote me on that. But it was a large bone, and it seemed a shame that it was mostly hidden behind this log so I pulled it out and dragged it onto the trail for all of the hikers behind me to enjoy. Every hiker likes to see the bones of former AT hikers on the trail, right? Even cattle? =)

Little did I know what that small act would cause later in the day… I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Butterfly Effect, where a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa ends up causing a hurricane in North Carolina. Small changes way back in time can have a major impact in unanticipated ways in the present, and my small act of moving that cow bone set in motion a chain of events that nobody could have predicted…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I looked at the cow bone, sitting there on the trail, but it didn’t seem ominous enough so I scratched into the dirt of the trail the word “DIE” in all capital letters. It was a half-hearted attempt since I didn’t really want to mess around with it very much—not to mention that I didn’t want to cause any real damage to the trail tread either—so I wasn’t even sure if anyone would notice the word. But I knew they’d notice the bone. It was impossible to miss since I laid it out literally right in the middle of the trail.


Then I continued hiking and forgot about the bone. I’d never be seeing it again. So I thought…

A bit further up the trail, I stopped to examine the back of my foot. It was starting to hurt and felt like a blister might have been forming, and sure enough, a tiny blister had formed on the back of my foot just above the heel. I attributed it to the new shoes I was wearing—my feet had certainly been trail hardened by now, but the shoes were still needed some breaking in. The blister was so small I thought popping it might actually be difficult, so I slapped a band-aide on it and moleskin on top of it which I hoped would be sufficient to take care of the problem. If the blister got any bigger later in the day or by the time I stopped for camp, I’d pop it then. I also named it ‘Georgia’ after the first state where the AT started. If I got a second blister, I’d call it North Carolina. =)

While messing with my foot, a couple of the Four Horsemen caught up with me including, most notably, Blueberry. Blueberry was the butterfly flapping its wings because what should he be carrying in his pack but a giant cow bone! WTF?!

He thought the bone was awesome and couldn’t let it go by. Despite its size and weight, he added it to his pack—for purposes yet to be determined. Blueberry seemed almost surprised that nobody else had already grabbed up such a great bone. I hadn’t imagined that anyone would want to carry it, much less the first person who happened across it on the trail. Now there’s the word “DIE” on the trail with absolutely no context anymore. (Speaking of which, when I mentioned writing the word DIE into the trail, Blueberry said he hadn’t noticed it—which didn’t really surprise me but still disappointed me.)


All four of the horsemen moved on ahead of me and I put the bone out of my head once again. I suspected I’d see it again since it was now ahead of me on the trail, but I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. What could Blueberry possibly do with a giant cow bone?

Never underestimate the Blueberry, though. I did, and I should have known better.

When I approached the next shelter on the trail, I saw three of the four horsemen sitting at the picnic table in front of it. The fact that Blueberry wasn’t at the table didn’t concern me at all—he was probably in the privy or taking a whiz behind the shelter or something, or had already continued hiking on ahead on the trail.

I was about to say hi to the group of three when I heard rustling from the bushes and leaves on my right. I turned to look and…

What the hell?! It was a person crawling on his belly through the brush with a mask made of a giant cow bone and holding a gun. I knew it was Blueberry, despite the mask. I knew it was Blueberry because of the mask! He had tied ropes to the ends of it that allowed him to hold it to his head and used the holes in the pelvis as eyeholes. The thing was freaky crazy! And where the heck did the gun come from?! It was obviously a fake gun since it had that red, plastic tip, but I had no idea Blueberry had been carrying a fake gun. It was, without a doubt, one of the most bizarre and strangest things I’d never seen hiking along a trail.

Little did I realize the chain of events I was setting into motion when I moved this bone onto the trail…

As it turned out, Blueberry hadn’t been carrying the fake gun—he had found it in the shelter and added it to his outfit. He decided to carry it and the cow-bone mask for the time being, clearing having a lot of fun with his newly found props. Before Blueberry got up from the ground, I told him to hang on a moment so I could snap his photo. Seeing is believing and if a photo is normally worth a thousand words, this one had to be worth ten thousand!

I wrote a comment in the shelter’s register to warn everyone that I spotted a crazy guy wearing a cow-bone mask with a gun creeping through the woods next to the shelter—a 100% true story, although I didn’t bother to mention that I was pretty certain the guy was harmless. =) I also wrote that I had a photo of the culprit and witnesses to prove the veracity of my claims. (Superman wrote below my entry that what I wrote was true and that he was a witness.)

I mention the register entry only because later I heard that Karaoke arrived at the shelter and apparently was pretty freaked out about my note—and telling others that he knew me and “knew” that I wouldn’t lie about something like that in a register. (Oh, if only he knew me better… and saw my April Fools Day entries! Although in this case, I actually was telling the truth, even if I left out important parts that might have alleviated his concerns.) He was so freaked out by my register entry, though, that he set up his tent in the shelter to protect himself against this strange man running around with a cow-bone mask and a gun. I didn’t quite understand how a tent would protect him, but this is only a story that I heard second-hand and perhaps something got lost in the translation, but it amused me to no end.

Eventually, we all continued onwards to the Chestnut Knob Shelter for the night at our own pace. By noon, the skies had filled with dark, ominous clouds. Late in the day, it sprinkled briefly and even hailed, but it wasn’t long enough or hard enough for me to call today an official rain day. The sweat from my body got my shirt more wet than the rain did, and hail isn’t particularly wet at all although I did pull out my umbrella for a few minutes to protect myself from being pelted by it. I soon put the umbrella away, though, because the wind was too strong for it. By the time I reached the shelter, the wind was strong enough to nearly blow someone over.

There were a LOT of stiles to climb over today!

The Chestnut Knob Shelter was packed when I arrived with all of the bed space already taken, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from sleeping in the shelter. The skies had stopped sprinkling, but the clouds still looked angry and the wind was absolutely ferocious. The wind-chill factor alone could freeze a man to death! This is one of the rare shelters with walls on all four sides to block the elements, and a door on the front that allowed us to keep out the wind completely. Nope, I was sleeping in the shelter, and I’d squeeze myself in by sleeping on the floor underneath one of the bunk spaces. No big deal. I’ve slept in worse conditions. There wasn’t a lot of head room, but you don’t really need much head room just to sleep. =)

And that was about it for the day. More people arrived at the shelter after I did and we squeezed everyone inside. Little Red slept on the picnic table inside and others crowded together on the floor under the bunks. I never got an official count of how many people were in the shelter that night, but we probably had close to double the “official” maximum capacity and still had floor space left over.



See the tat on my neck? I’m a total badass! =)

What the hell?! Really, I have only myself to blame. I should have known better than to leave Blueberry alone with a cow bone.

Blueberry has an imaginative mind. Cow-bone masks are just a symptom of it, but you can also see just from his lunch that he’s not “normal.”



The clouds were angry! There would be some sprinkling, a little hail and even thunder rolling over the hillsides.




The Chestnut Knob Shelter is one of the few shelters that actually have four walls and a front door to protect you from the elements—which is important because the wind was absolutely brutal up here! You’ll just have to take my word for it, though, since wind isn’t visible in the photo.

By sunset, the worst of the clouds had left and allowed for a rather nice sunset! But I was the only person who left the shelter to watch it due to the high winds and freezing air temperatures.

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