Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 54: McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs

April 30: It didn't rain during the night, much to my relief, but the rain and thunderstorms were predicted to start at around 3:00 in the afternoon so I intended to get as much hiking in before then as I could. Not a moment to lose!

The first noteworthy point I reached was McAfee Knob. When I arrived, there was a couple with their dog, but that was it. Later I'd talk to other thru-hikers who had arrived on a weekend and described the horror of seemingly hundreds of people milling around the viewpoint and how awful it was, but it was quiet and peaceful when I arrived.

The view was incredible, but I'll let the photos on this blog tell that story. McAfee Knob is best known not for the views from it, however, but rather the views of it. It juts out from a cliff and people can walk out to the edge causing a dramatic effect. It's probably among one of the most photographed points along the AT.

I didn't linger long, however. The clouds looked ugly and rain was still in the forecast. I continued on, and a few miles later, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye up the trail. It was pretty far up the trail--the trail stayed straight as an arrow for nearly half a mile and I could see almost its entire length along that section. At first I just assumed the movement I saw was a hiker ahead, but when I focused on it, I realized it was actually a bear! A real, live bear!!!

This, to say the least, was very exciting for me. I love seeing bears in the wild. I whipped out my camera and immediately took a photo as zoomed in as I could. The bear was a mere dot in the camera, a black spec of dust that could have been anything if you didn't know what you were looking at.

The bear was directly on the AT, maybe a quarter mile ahead. It wasn't a good view, and the photo was even worse. The bear, I think, noticed me as well because ten seconds after I spotted him, he moved off the side of the trail. Not with any urgency--I wasn't anywhere close to him--but off the trail and out of view.

I kept my camera on and approached, hoping I'd spot him hiding behind a tree on the side of the trail or something, but when I reached the point where I saw the bear, there was nothing. The bear was gone, and all I had was a blurry photo as proof. Later, when I got on my computer and could zoom into the photo, I could see a little more detail. It looks like a bigger dot with leg-like protrusions coming out from the bottom of it, but it's still hard to identify as a bear unless you're told what you're looking at. All-in-all, it was exciting to spot the bear. It was disappointing not to get a good photo of it.

I continued onwards, next stopping at Tinker Cliffs. I stopped to pee off the cliffs (with a name like 'Tinker,' how could I not tinkle off the top?) and admired the view for a few minutes. The views were dramatic and impressive, but I could actually see rain falling in the distance. It hadn't rained on me yet, but the ground around the cliffs was wet as if it had rained recently. I must have just narrowly avoided the rain storm, but my luck wouldn't hold out. I needed to keep moving.

As if the weather wanted to punctuate that point, I heard thunder rolling off the hills in the distance. My cue to go!

I arrived at the Lamberts Meadow Shelter at about 3:30 just as the first drops of rain started to fall. I had made it! Another day of not having to hike in the rain!

I was immediately put off by a tent I saw set up IN the shelter. What kind of person sets up a tent inside a shelter? He introduced himself as Stubby.

On the other side of the shelter was a Swedish section hiker named Garm who told us he was celebrating the start of spring because it's a holiday in his country. He intended to build a campfire--if the rain didn't make it impossible--and perhaps sing a Swedish song for us. Sounds like fun to me!

I ignored the tent in the shelter at first. So far, there were only three of us there and even though I thought the tent in the shelter was a selfish thing to do, there was still plenty of room for all three of us and the tent. As far as I knew, nobody behind me was expected to arrive here, but being only 3:30 in the afternoon, I totally assumed that at least a couple of more people would show up before dark. If a few more people did show up, I fully intended to make a stink about the tent in the shelter.

But looking at that tent, it just annoyed me and I finally asked Stubby what was the deal with the tent in the shelter. He stuttered a series of answers... it helped keep him warm at night, it gave him more privacy and he had wanted to dry his tent from the night before. And when he arrived, nobody else was there and he thought he'd have the shelter to himself.

All of which I checked off mentally as BS answers. Last night was the first night in awhile it wasn't particularly cold and tonight was expected to be even warmer with the insulating layer of clouds to trap in the heat. You don't go to a shelter for privacy. Shelters are a communal place. If you want privacy, set it up somewhere outside the shelter! And I cowboy camped the previous two nights. I knew darned well it hadn't rained and that condensation hadn't made his tent wet. And as to the thought that he might have the shelter to himself, it was 3:30 when I arrived and I already expected more people to arrive, even if I didn't know who. It was way too early in the day to predict that nobody else would show up. (But it begs the question, if he thought he'd be the only person in the shelter, why would he need a tent for "privacy"?)

But to each of the BS answers he gave, I just nodded, "Uh-huh. I see."

He stopped stuttering and looked directly at me asking if I had a problem with the tent.

"No," I told him aloud. Not yet, I thought privately. This was pretty passive aggressive of me because, well, technically, I guess I did have a problem with it, but I'd bite my tongue until more hikers showed up. Even if nobody else showed it, it was still an inconsiderate move to make.

He continued to stare at me, not saying anything else. I stared back, thinking his stare seemed particularly aggressive and angry. I couldn't really blame him--he must have sensed my hostility towards the tent even though I told him I didn't have a problem with it. I remember wondering if I should break eye contact with him, but I really had nothing better to do. It was too early in the day to make dinner. I had already spread out my gear and made myself comfortable in the shelter. I couldn't think of anything else to do, so I just stared at him.

We stared at each other like this for perhaps 30 seconds before he finally broke eye contact and started doing something else. I just kept watching him because I didn't have anything better to do, and I liked the fact that I think it was making him uncomfortable. =)

Eventually, more hikers did show up. I continued biting my tongue after the fourth person showed up at the shelter but when a fifth person showed up, I suggested that he should take down his tent. He immediately pointed to my ground sheet and complained about all of the room it was taking up. "Don't worry about my groundsheet," I told him. "I can shift it to be narrower in seconds, and I'll made room as needed. Your tent can't do that."

The fifth hiker said he wanted to camp in his tent next to the creek, so it defused that situation. For now...

I started dreaming of the horrible things I'd do to Stubby if he refused to take down his tent when the next hiker arrived. I imagined throwing a bucket of water on his tent in the shelter. "Keeping dry, are you?" I'd shout, then laugh. I'd wait until morning, though. I wouldn't want him to have the opportunity to throw a bucket of water on me during the night, after all. As long as I could out-hike him (and I could--he was a section hiker who'd only been on the trail for a week or two, and looked to be of retirement age and not in terribly good shape), I'd never have to see him again.

I imagined all of us thru-hikers ganging together and forcibly evicting him from the shelter, throwing his tent and everything in it out into the rain in the middle of the night.

I had all sorts of horrible thoughts....

Then another hiker arrived--Bostrich!--and before I could even say a word, Stubby suggested that maybe he should take down his tent. Good choice, Stubby. Good choice.

Rain did settle in during the afternoon, but during one of the stops, Garm started a fire with wood he had collected earlier and had stored in the shelter to keep dry. He did sing us a song, but I couldn't tell you what it was since it was in Swedish. It sounded pleasant to listen to--though I'm not sure if it was his voice that sounded nice or just the language. =)

Stubby continued annoying me with his chatter the rest of the night. He complained about unions not getting the respect they once did--didn't everyone know how much they improved the workplace environment since The Jungle came out? (Did Stubby not know that book was written over a hundred years ago and things have changed since then?) I can't really say that I'm for unions or against unions. I'm for a lot of the things they stand for, and sometimes I think they shoot themselves in the foot and make things worse. I just loved the time the union for Hostess voted to go on strike even though the company said they'd have to declare bankruptcy and liquidate if they did. They did vote to strike, and Twinkies vanished from store shelves for nearly a year until another company bought the rights to make them. And all those people in the union... lost their jobs. Yeah, you showed them all right. If they've gotten a bad rap recently, it's because they spend too much time shooting themselves in the foot.

But that was all besides the point because nobody on the trail wants to talk politics! Well, okay, obviously some people (like Stubby) do, but seriously, it just pisses everyone else off. Then there was his comment that the United States was becoming a fascist society before correcting himself and saying it already was a fascist society. Seriously? Does he even know what fascism is? I just wanted him to stop talking.

He as also pretty excited about a branch on a tree just in front of the shelter declaring it the "perfect" place to hang a bear bag. It was, admittedly, a nice branch in a lot of ways. It was high enough, stretched out far enough from the trunk and was free of lower-hanging branches that would get in the way, but the branch looked several inches wide to me and I was pretty confident that a small bear (or even a baby bear) would easily be able to climb out on the branch and nab a food bag.

"I don't know..." I told him. "That branch looks a little thick. I think some bears could just crawl out on it."

He looked at the branch and slowly nodded in agreement. "Almost the perfect branch."

Almost, indeed. That's the problem with hanging food bags from trees. There's never a perfect branch around--just almosts. When Stubby walked out of hearing distance, I leaned over and told Garm that I personally know about a dozen people who've had their food bags taken by bears over the years and there's one thing every one of them had in common: They all hung it from a "perfect" tree.

Garm commented that if we're lucky, we might actually get to see a bear eat Stubby's food bag. As much as I liked the idea of Stubby learning that there's no such thing as a perfect tree, I didn't want a bear to learn bad habits either by associating food bags with people. Nothing good would come from that.

Stubby didn't score anymore points from me when he pulled out his pot to smoke. He explained how he hid his marijuana in capsules of some sort when he flew from California to get his pot on the trail. Smuggling drugs through an airport. Awesome. I was so disappointed he hadn't gotten caught doing that. I'd never have had to meet him at all on the trail if that had happened. He was kind enough to offer a smoke to everyone else in the shelter, but nobody else was interested so he smoked by himself and explained that it was for medical purposes because it helped him sleep at night. Maybe it really does help him sleep at night, I don't know, but I had a hunch he'd been smoking pot since the '70s and it wasn't to help him sleep nor was for any medical purposes. He just likes to smoke pot but doesn't want to seem to come out and say so which just annoyed me further. I've seen a lot of pot use on the trail, but everyone else--if asked--just says they enjoy it instead of making up stupid medical excuses for it. (They'll often have medical marijuana cards to acquire pot, but they'll readily admit that there's not any real medical reason for it.)

It was somewhat refreshing when Stubby finally went to sleep and I didn't have to listen to any of his nonsense anymore. I had been thrilled to reach the shelter before any rain started, but it felt more like a punishment as the afternoon and evening dragged on. Stubby had a particular knack for getting under my skin and I couldn't wait to be rid of him for good!

McAfee Knob is quite dramatic! (There's a photo Superman showed me of him doing a handstand right near the edge. That's one scary photo!)

Storm clouds are brewing!

View from the edge of McAfee Knob.

Can you see the bear in this photo? It's that black dot almost dead center in the photo, just above where the trail crests that small hill.

I zoomed into that same photo here. See the bear now? It's still small and fuzzy, but at least it looks like a black dot with legs on it now! If it hadn't been moving, I wouldn't have recognized it as a bear at all.

Just look at how steep this trail is!

A tunnel! How exciting! =)

View from Tinker Cliffs

My view while sitting on the edge of Tinker Cliffs.

The trail follows along the edge of Tinker Cliffs for about half a mile!

Looks like rain in the distance! Time to get to the shelter before it hits!

Home, sweet home for the night. That tent on the left bothered me the second I saw it. If you ever camp in a shelter, never set up your tent in it unless you are the only person in the shelter that night! It is incredibly inconsiderate to other hikers. (And here's a hint: You won't know if you'll be the only person when it's early in the afternoon. You need to wait until dark before you can be fairly confident that nobody else will show up.)


MoonshineOverKY said...

I so enjoy reading your blog. Today's had me in stitches. Very funny - although probably wasnt at the time. Loved seeing the video.

Jaxx said...

When I saw you posted a video of Tinker Cliffs, I have to admit I got a little nervous, since .. you know .. you peed off them ... *whew*

Unknown said...

Hmm. Just reading about this particular hiker, gets under my skin.. it had me thinking of a few things that could happen to that tent... haha

Great photos, though!