First Night

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My first night alone in the woods

Settled down and zipped in sometime before dark. Arranging the tent as well as I could, I put on my fleece hat, covered up with the "blanket" and waited for sleep.

As my world grew darker, my mind grew livelier. Soon I felt threatened by bears, stalkers, flash floods, plane crashes from the sky and imaginary beings, as the water-fall roared on into the night. I was also cold. My toes were little ice cubes.

I dug out my lightweight throw-in-at-the-last-minute-just-in-case sleeping bag - a zipperless down mummy,Kathleen's Tent open at the wide end. I started warming up somewhat, but my toes, in wool socks and down bag, were still like ice. I tried rubbing them but, constrained by the narrow bag, could barely reach them. I settled for the contortionist trick of tucking them alternately into the crook of the opposite knee - they thawed only slightly but the position was too awkward to continue.

After a couple of hours mentally battling my imaginary demons I began to drift off to sleep. Suddenly the vibrations of a scritch, scritch, scritch worked their way from the ground somewhere outside the tent, into the stuff sack pillow, into my ear, to my brain and whammee! I was suddenly flailing (or as much as one can flail in a mummy bag) striking  the side of the tent, fumbling around for the only defensive weapon I could think of - a tiny, one ounce flashlight that had an eye-piercing blue light when the button was squeezed.

I clutched this tightly as I lay frozen in fear, my heart beating an adrenaline-induced pace. After a long time of not moving, heart still pounding I wondered why the warm blood still hadn't reached my toes.

I dozed briefly, with crazy dreams, waking to hope for dawn. It was 2.30 am, my feet were finally warm but the tent walls, heavy with condensation, were sagging in on me. I opened the flap a bit and waited for a long time for sleep to revisit. I woke at first light - 6.30 - slowly aware that I hurt everywhere, with an especially noticeable deep, dark ache in my right hip. I needed to pee, and maybe worse ( a bodily function I was vaguely hoping to postpone until after I'd climbed Katahdin) - no small task when I had to climb 200ft away from my neighbouring stream into the woods.

If all my nights and mornings are like this, it's going to be a long, long hike. And I mean just to Neel's Gap!


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