Monday, May 30, 2016

Day 14: Save the Salamaders! Stop brushing your teeth!

September 24: The morning was much improved over yesterday. The winds had died down to nothing and the views were great--although it was still quite chilly. One distinct downside to sleeping in a refuge was that everyone else woke up way too friggin' early. By the time Karolina and I got up at 6:30, most of the other hikers were already gone. And we hadn't even started hiking yet--we'd only woken up!

It was cold enough for frost to form during the night, and in shady areas, it lingered quite late into the morning.

Karolina headed to the kitchen to eat and continue drying some wet clothes. I hung out in the empty bunkroom eating breakfast. I wasn't entirely sure if eating was allowed in the bunkrooms, but it was certainly better than the alternative of eating outside. The kitchen and dining area I figured was still probably full of people and I liked the quiet of the bunkroom.

Afterwards, however, I headed outside to brush my teeth. Can't exactly spit out the gunk in the bunkroom! I brushed near the water faucet when the caretaker saw me and started getting all angry at me, yelling at me in French. What the hell was wrong with him? He kept pointing towards the kitchen area. Later he told me--in very bad English--that there was a salamander living near where I was brushing my teeth and he didn't want my teeth brushing to invade the salamander's habitat. Come on, really? I certainly had no intention of spitting out the toothpaste on a salamander, but did it really matter where I brushed my teeth? Wherever I went, there would be some sort of animal living nearby!

I finished getting ready for the trail before Karolina and killed some time reading my Kindle until she was ready too, and we were the last hikers of the morning to leave. It was only 8:00 AM.

The trail started rocky, but within an hour or so descended to a largely flat and easy trail. The day was beautiful, but a wave of cold swept over us every time a cloud obscured the sun.

When the sun was out, the fall colors were wonderful. Brilliant reds and yellows, with lots of crackling leaves underfoot. Absolutely wonderful!

The weather the previous day apparently had caught up with me, however, and I had developed a case of the sniffles. I didn't think too much of it at the time, until Karolina got upset about my not blowing my nose. She didn't want to hear my sniffling, but honking loudly into a handkerchief was okay, so that's what I started doing. I didn't much like it, though, because the constant wiping of my nose with the handkerchief made my nose raw and sore, and now I had a dirty, nasty handkerchief to carry around.

It was time to leave the refuge! The weather conditions were still cold, but the lack of wind and rain made the experience a whole lot better than yesterday!

When we passed a small creek, I decided it was a good time to shave. I'd been a few days without shaving, and I liked the idea of letting Karolina get ahead so I could stop blowing my nose all the time. =) So I took about 15 minutes to shave, eat a couple of snacks, and figured the head start Karolina had on me would take me at least an hour to catch up with her again.

So I was somewhat surprised when, all of about five minutes later, I caught up with her. How?! I'd given her a 15 minute head start!

Turns out, while I was shaving and eating snacks, she had taken a wrong turn and gotten herself lost. I happened across her just a few minutes of her re-finding the trail. It was actually a good thing she had found the trail when she did. If I had passed her and didn't know it, it would have probably been a couple of hours before I started wondering why I hadn't caught up with her yet and realized she was actually behind me! But I was a little disappointed that I couldn't sniffle my way down the trail for the next hour or so either.

Karolina and I decided to take another alternative route for most of the day. The route used to be the main GR 20, but a refuge in the middle of it burned down after being struck by lightening in 1981. Rather than rebuilding the refuge there, they re-routed the trail to another refuge. It added several miles to the trail and broke an otherwise very long segment without refuges into two smaller segments. Interestingly, the old refuge is now the location of the only place along the entire trail where camping is allowed away from refuges and was entirely free. We were half inclined to camp there for the night just for that reason, but we were anxious to get this trail done and still had more miles in our bones. We felt certain we'd have no trouble reaching the next refuge by dark.

Near the end of the day, the trail re-united with the main route and headed down a steep slope to the Refuge d'Asinau where we set up camp for the night.

Shadow games in the morning. =)
What a beautiful day!

Karolina enjoys the autumn leaves falling from the trees!
Okay, to be perfectly honest.... the leaves may not have actually been falling out of the trees.... although they had fallen out of them at one point! =)

Most of the day's hiking was like this--along a flat, easy plateau. Still scenic, though!

At one point, we stumbled across a bunch of little piglets. They didn't seem particularly shy of people, but we didn't want to get too close to them either!
Do we dare cross this rickety suspension bridge that only allows one person at a time to cross?
Of course we dare! And we stress test it by jumping up and down on it too! (At least I did.) =)

It's amazing how different the weather can be on two sides of a ridge. On the one side, thick with fog. On the other, mostly clear with great visibility!

The trail down to the refuge at the end of the day was quite steep and slow-going. (See the chain by Karolina's feet?)

Sunset from our campsite was gorgeous!

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