Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Day 12: The Unmanned Refuge....

September 22: Karolina had an especially difficult night. Not only did she not like the dark and gloomy campsite, but wedged deep in a valley next to a cold river, the temperatures were relatively cold as well and her sleeping bag wasn't up to the task. I threw my tarp over us like a blanket as an extra layer, but it's a thin layer at best.

I woke up at around 4:00 in the morning feeling parched and thirsty and rustled a bit for some water. Karolina eagerly asked if it was 6:30 yet. Which might have been a first--usually she seemed disappointed when it was 6:30 and it was time to wake up. She clearly hadn't been sleeping well and was anxious to get moving, but no, it was still too early.

A couple of hours later, we started waking up for the day, and Karolina complained about how cold she was all night. I joked about farting under the tarp to help keep her warm.

Her eyes opened wide. "Have you ever heard of gas chambers? You could have killed me!"

I took my usual time to eat breakfast, brush my teeth and get ready for the day, but Karolina couldn't wait to hit the trail and start walking just to warm up so she got a 15 minute head start on me, impatient to wait for me. That was fine--I'll catch up when I catch up. =)

Eventually, I was ready to go, and I didn't get 10 seconds down the trail before I found a dirty sock laying there. It had to be Karolina's. She was the only person who'd been here since we set up camp the evening before, and she normally used safety pins to hang dirty and drying socks from her pack. This one must have fallen off unexpectedly. I picked it up and added it to my pack.

I caught up with Karolina about an hour later near the next refuge where she was happily reunited wit her sock. She had noticed it was missing but didn't know where she lost it and hoped I'd find it. "It was crying," she told me. It was missing her, and I saved the day by picking it up.

The day warmed up, but not much. Most of the day was spent the shadows of the trees, and the wind was very strong on the exposed ridges. The wind chill was brutal. The views were often less than spectacular, mostly because of a thick layer of clouds blocking views to the east. My throat was a bit sore all day, which I attributed to being slightly dehydrated from yesterday. I really hadn't had enough water to drink.

At one viewpoint, we took a lunch break and a couple of horses loaded down with supplies and a cowboy happened by--probably to resupply the refuge just up the trail. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, another horse, all by itself without any supplies on its back wandered by as well. It seemed to know where it was going, or at least where it wanted to go since it didn't even stop to check us out. As it walked off, Karolina turned to me and suggested that we could have put our packs on the horse.

This refuge had plenty of firewood out front!

Brilliant! I wish she had thought of that before it had already walked off, though. =) I'm not even sure how we'd have attached our packs to the horse anyhow, but I liked the concept. If the horse was going our way already, why not let him carry our packs?

After the Refuge de Prati, the trail became a lot more rugged, difficult and slow. Lots of scrambling involved. Other hikers heading in the opposite direction told us about being in rain earlier in the day, although we hadn't experienced any of that. Yet. Some of the clouds to the east did look like they might have rain, however.

The trail followed the spine of Corsica, high on a ridge separating the east side of Corsica from the west side of Corsica, and the weather on each side was dramatically different. To the east, thick clouds that often times resembled a forest fire burning up the slopes. To the west, absolutely clear and beautiful--albeit cold and windy. Most of the afternoon we were on the clear and beautiful side, but that wouldn't last. Along the ridge where it was most rugged, the trail dropped and skirted just around the peaks along the cloudy and gloomy side.

Near the end of the day, we were once again located about halfway between refuges with little chance of hitting the next one before dark. However! We had a backup plan to avoid an illegal campsite and save money by heading to a "unmanned refuge" a short ways off trail. The side trail was well marked and maintained... at first. Eventually a smaller trail that was almost impossible to see split off from it. We'd have missed the turnoff completely if it wasn't for a small sign marking it, and even then we had doubts if it was the correct way. It looked like nobody had used that trail in years, but we followed it anyhow eventually leading to a small, cinder-block building. The windows were shuttered closed and the door closed, giving the place an abandoned, haunted look.

Karolina opened the door and poked her head in, giving me the all clear. I quickly followed her in and we checked out the place. It was divided into two small rooms. The smaller one was a kitchen and dining room of sorts, while a slightly larger one further in led to the sleeping quarters which resembled a shelter from the AT more than a proper refuge. It had a wooden floor (raised a couple of feet above the cement floor) and mouse poop littered the area. Nobody else was there--not yet, at least--but it looked like nobody had been there for weeks.

I opened the shutters for the windows of the sleeping quarters to let in some light--it was quite dark inside!--and a lizard fell out and scampered across the floor away from us.

The setting was primitive, but we were still both happy to have this shelter. There was a good chance of rain during the night, and we'd be out of it. Underneath the wooden floor of the sleeping area, there was a large chest, which I pulled out and opened to check out. It was filled with thick, wool blankets!

"Hey, Karolina!" I exclaimed. "If you're cold tonight, you've got some real blankets to warm  you up this tonight!"

There was also an abandoned sleeping pad in the refuge, which I figured I may as well use. Save me from having to camp directly on the hard, wooden floor. This would be my second night on the GR 20 with a sleeping pad--who says you have to carry one yourself? I just find mine on the trail!

A table in the sleeping quarters had several empty wine bottles and mostly burned out candles stuffed into the ends. But there were still a couple of candles with a bit of life left and near sunset when darkness started to invade, I stuffed them in the ends of the wine bottles and lit them. They provided a nice, pleasant glow to the room that flashlights could never duplicate.

As it got dark, it became clear that nobody else would be arriving and we'd have the shelter all to ourselves. We were both plenty happy about this. No snorers to worry about, or early-morning rustling. Nor did we have to worry about waking up anyone else and disturbing them. We were a little surprised nobody else used the shelter--it was free (although a sign requested a small donation in a drop box in the kitchen area) and conveniently located halfway between two refuges. It didn't have all of the facilities of a larger refuge (particularly a lack of water, but we came prepared for that), but it was certainly a lot quieter and cozier than one of the crowded refuges everyone else was staying at.

It was a rough day, but we were both quiet happy with our destination for the day. Wish we had these places every night! =)

Karolina tries growing a beard!

It wasn't until after this horse walked passed us (completely unattended!) that Karolina had the idea of throwing our packs on its back. =)

I'm hanging outside of the last "full-service" refuge of the day during a quick break.

The flag of Corsica
Views of the Mediterranean Sea were obscured with this thick layer of clouds to the east.
To the west, the sky was clear and beautiful!

I thought the clouds on the east side of the ridge kind of resembled a forest fire!

Holy giant cairns!

Trying to stay warm on one of those windy, exposed ridges during a short break. (I'm reading my Kindle here.)
While I was reading my Kindle, Karolina decided to take a quick nap. =)

It's a little amazing to me how different the weather can be on each side of this ridge. Clear and sunny on one side, and thick with impenetrable clouds on the other!

Does Karolina dare to open the door of the unmanned refuge?
Yes! She dares!
I set up camp in the shelter. =)
The view from our window.
Near sunset, we used the candles and (empty) wine bottles we found for light. =)

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