Trail Shenanigan's Part 2 (Naked and Busted)

My friend, Dana, thinks it is a strange and twisted way to celebrate, being out in the woods with no modern conveniences, but her idea of camping and roughing it is, in a hotel room, with no room service or a pool. 

At a party at one of our houses recently, my husband and I recanted the tale of last year's adventure involving the rape whistle and a bear, and an Appalachian Trail hiker that approached me and proceeded to hold a semi-lengthy conversation with me as I was bathing stark naked in a very cold mountain stream.

What you should know about this particular day was that it was very sunny and a bit humid, and that entire day, we had not run into a single other soul.  After being on the trail for two days already, with no places to bathe or wash the funk of the trail off, we came upon a waterfall slash stream combo that already had a perfect spot smack in the middle where you could sit on the flat rock and let the water crash over your smelly, exhausted body (I feel sorry for the animals drinking my stream water downstream...there was a lot of funky sweat mixed in with that water).  Now the thing that I didn't tell you is that this waterfall, stream thing was something you could not avoid because the Appalachian Trail  was through the waterfall.  It was directly on the trail, and you had to ford through it in order to continue the trail...so with that being said, you can see how this was going to go...but I was desperate...and desperation makes you do risky things sometimes.  Like for instance, bathing under a waterfall, channeling Pocahontas...cause that was how I was feeling...all the creatures were my friends...confession time: I actually caught myself singing the Disney theme songs from the movie.  

I had taken my pack off beside the waterfall and set up my cloth on the rocks and had unpacked my tiny camp towel for drying off once I had de-funked.  My husband and I had decided on our secret Ca-Caw signal and he left me in the waterfall as he went to find a tree to take care of business.  Ten minutes or so into my Disney Pocahontas sing along, "have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon, or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned"...the snap of some twigs and the sound of crunching underbrush elicited a ca-caw from me to make sure it was Tony coming up the path and not a stalking mountain lion ready to pounce on me for a meal...I heard no ca-caw back, so I decided it would be funny if I continued my sing along at full throttle now, "can you sing with all the voices of the mountains, can you paint with all the colors of the wind." 

Still no ca-caw back from my husband, but I hear a hesitation in the footstep for a second.

"Hey, babe...can you guess who I am?" I taunt as I lean my hair back into the waterfall, the water swirling around me, blinding me.

Still no response...just more footsteps, and then he finally appears.

It is not my husband.

It is a fellow hiker and he has me at a most vulnerable advantage.  
1. He has just heard me belting out Pocahontas like a crazy person. 
2. He has just seen me pose in the waterfall. 
3. And now...our eyes meet and I am locked in a frozen, naked, deer-in-headlights battle with him...it seems like an eternity, but it was probably less than a second.  

My heart is pounding in my ears and what I want to do is lunge for my towel, which seems soooo far away now.  In that split second, I realize that I am going to play it cool and just make my way down the rocks and just pretend that I am not a soaking wet, naked, heart pounding mess, and calmly get my towel.  This whole time he has been talking to me...he doesn't look away, or have that shifty uncomfortable thing going on that most Americans have when they see someone naked.  I decide that he is not from America and that this might be pretty normal where he comes from...yep, German...okay that explains it. Apparently you can sunbathe naked in parks in Germany, so, this is nothing out of the ordinary for him.   

I am finally at my towel, which is really more of a hand towel sized camp towel, and I realize that I cannot cover up really any of my body with it at this exact moment, so I do the only logical thing and just calmly dry off, put on my shirt, dry off some more, put on my pants and secretly curse Tony in the back of my mind for not warning me of my impending  death by embarrassment.  Speaking of the devil, up he comes from the trail now.  I am making introductions to the German guy as I am pulling on my pants...my God, I must have looked like a sight.

I am shooting Tony eye darts with a smile and he is trying not to laugh at me.  

He thinks this is funny.  

I am so mad at him.

In the back of my mind I envision him plotting this with the German guy to teach me a lesson on the perils of bathing in public places and expecting privacy.  I know it is not true, but you know, my imagination is concocting up scenarios in which this could be a reality.  

Finally, I am finished getting dressed and after about ten or fifteen minutes, the German is done filling his water bottle and makes his way back onto the trail...I would have loved to be a fly on the wall as he tells his version of this story to his friends.  

This year on the trail, I told myself that baths in public like last year would be frowned upon because we were traveling with three other companions, but I didn't know if I could resist a waterfall like last year if we did come upon one...the bright side was, there would be more people looking out for strangers if we did come upon one, however, the trail was so dry this year that the places where there were waterfalls were totally dried up and the only water sources left were the springs along the trail.

On our last night hiking, we camped at a shelter at one of those springs along the trail, set up our tents, started a fire and began boiling water for a sponge bath...inside the tent...some lessons kind of get learned.  There is something sooooo glorious about warm, slightly soapy water washing away your long and grueling day of hiking in your own, for lack of a better word, juices.  Pulling off your boots and shedding your sweaty clothes, then wiping off and putting on some Shoogie Face Elixir, Naughty Bits & Pits and Arrowroot powder infused with mint...it is a refreshing, dry, and cozy moral booster.  

After my "bath", I pulled on my fleece ski wear that was my pajamas and settled in to our tent.  I left the screen open so I could watch the flames from the fire flicker and so the heat would warm the inside of the tent faster.  It was dropping down into the low 40's to upper 30's at night and every bit of warmth was greedily appreciated.  Our friends Sarah and Mike had their own tents, but were forced to bunk together this particular night because 4 tents simply would not fit in the space of the shelter...trust me, we tried...I think Sarah was a little bit thankful though because the previous night she had gotten no sleep because she was so cold.  She had brought Florida winter clothes on this hike, which is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. When she came out of her tent that first morning, she was shivering and wore her sleeping bag around camp along with pretty much every other piece of clothing in her bag.  My husband had an extra jacket he didn't use and handed it to her shivering frame that morning.  Once we were moving, things would warm up, but when you were dormant, it was really cold. 

So there we were, our last night on the trail, Sarah had retired early because she had not slept a wink the night before, then Mike went in about 45 minutes after Sarah.  He needed his rest.  More than once on the trail that day, I was legitimately concerned he was about to have a heart attack or a stroke.  I had a heart rate monitor watch, and I was monitoring my progress that day hiking.  At one point, we stopped because he was breathing so hard.   His heart rate measured 193 beats per minute.  Inside, my mind was panicking, outside I was calm and encouraging him to rest and take the lead so he could set the pace.  I finally asked him the question after our last stop half a mile from camp.  The others had gone ahead and I was bringing up the rear with Mike.  The old fitness instructor part of me kicked in and I told him we were very close to camp and then I told him to dig deep.  I told him this was the part where you find out how far you can push yourself and what you are made of.  his response made me laugh.

"Oh apparently, I know what I am made of...blubber!"

"Then tell your body to drag it up this last hill.  It's pretty flat after this and I think we can get there in thirty minutes," I lied.  I had no idea how many more hills were beyond this one but it was about thirty minutes to camp, so that was promising.

"Okay," he said and with determination he trudged up the hill with penguin like steps and walking poles digging into the flesh of the mountain...but then we came to another incline and he grimaced as he plopped down on a log and said discouraged, "go on without me."

"Um, no.  I literally thought you were going to die back there.  We will go slow.  We are really close."

Then, like and angel of light, my husband comes jogging towards us sans pack and says, "camp is really close, but I have run back to take someone's pack."

I make eye contact with him and point to Mike out of Mike's line of sight.  Mike was so beat, he didn't even fight him.  We finally made it to camp about half an hour later and things got better from there.  They say it usually takes your body 3 days to adjust to the hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  At day 2, we still had one more day of pushing to get things going for us.  I was praying that Mike would make it out of the woods with us alive.

Enjoying the solace of our tent, watching the flames flick back and forth, hearing the wind whisper through the leaves and hearing the babbling of the spring water flowing out of the rocks and trickle down the side of the mountain was so relaxing.  My brother, Nate, was tending the fire because, although my husband is a firefighter, he cannot make a fire like my brother, which I guess is a good thing since his job is to put them out.  Nate decided to explore the shelter we were camping in and discovered a treasure of struggles and hilarious things contained inside the trail notebook in the shelter safe box.  He was reading them out loud besides the firelight when all of the sudden a hornet...I was convinced it was the one that had visited me earlier and bestowed much pain and affliction on me... began buzzing around the notebook.

"Shoo, stupid bee." he said calmly and waved his hand to shoo the pest away.  

Apparently, the hornet did not take kindly to being bossed around and decided upon another plan of action.  He flew off and came back to dive bomb my brother.  

"Get out of here," Nate said, now waving the notebook around his head like a fly swatter.

The hornet was on a rampage now and was chasing my brother around the fire in a circle as my brother was swatting blindly with notebook and arms flailing in the dark.  My husband, Tony and I were laughing so loudly watching this comical situation that we accidentally woke up Sarah and Mike who were also getting entertainment out of the chase.  

Finally, Nate got a good shot in and knocked the hornet into the tin part of the fire rim where it ricocheted off into the burning flames.  You could hear the "Tink" sound of him hitting it and the sizzling sound of his demise.

"That's what you get!  You feisty sucker.  Liv, did you see that?" he said proudly.

"Yeah, but why were you running around the fire letting him chase you?" I said.

"Oh, I thought I could smoke him out...but apparently not.  Maybe that only works on bees. That was probably the hornet from earlier coming back for revenge,"  he laughed.

Now about that hornet story from earlier...(to-be-continued)

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