Red light doesn’t always mean video camera

I wrote about Day One of hiking Mount Mitchell yesterday. Today, I bring you:

Day 2, Saturday: We actually hike.

I wake up sometime in the middle of the night, finally warm in my sleeping bag with my puppy. And, drat: I have to pee. Peeing in the woods always sucks for girls, but especially when the temperature is somewhere between freezing and oh-my-God. But I remember what Jeff said about a full bladder keeping me colder, and I know I will not get back to sleep until I make this happen, so Breanna (who has to pee too) and I go out into the frigid air. It’s crazy cold, but we survive.

Before the hike begins. Notice the smiles?
Before the hike begins. Notice the smiles?

I settle back in the tent and by this point I’ve awoken Chris. We talk for a little while before we drift off to sleep and then I wake up in a blue bubble. It seems to be daylight. Kevin is awake; I can hear him tending the fire. Warm fire or warm sleeping bag? I ponder. Breanna chooses for me by jumping on my face, tail wagging, excited. She’s ready for the day’s adventure, so that means I am too. It is really, really cold: Kevin confirms this with his thermometer reading: 16 degrees. Yikes!

Jeff is evil and he decided to pick up a box of Krispy Kremes for a last-meal-we-don’t-have-to-carry celebration. I eat 2 of them (after all, I’m about to burn a bazillion calories, right?) Chris makes coffee by the fire using the filters we bought at REI. The first cup is horrible (I don’t think it steeped long enough) but the second one is absolutely wonderful.

We take our time  packing our packs and figuring out who is carrying what. Chris insists on carrying his heavy blanket. The more-experienced-than-him hiker in me wants to tell him that’s a horrible idea, but the cold sleeper in me only mildly protests. We are sharing a tent so I carry his tent poles, rainfly, clothes and food, and he carries the tent body. Kevin and Jeff are carrying all the cookware; Kevin has chosen to bring his rainfly and footprint only (hardcore in this weather!) and Jeff is even more hardcore in his Marine-Corps issued bivvy sack.

Maybe Kevin and I should have given each other evil looks like our dogs did.
Maybe Kevin and I should have given each other evil looks like our dogs did.

Finally, up we go. Up almost 3 miles (summit is 5.6 miles up). The trail is labeled most difficult, and this is not for the faint of heart.

It’s slow-moving for Jeff, who still feels sick despite his best efforts to shrug it off; it’s written all over his face. Althea takes a strong lead in our group, and Kevin is easily able to keep up. Chris and I are somewhere in the middle, although I suspect he probably could go faster than me; he’s just being nice. I’m a decently strong hiker but I question my footing a lot, constantly remembering advice Kevin gave me a long time ago: Make sure every step counts. One unsure step, and you’ve got a twisted ankle or worse.

We stop for water breaks and snacks and to shed layers. I actually am down to a short-sleeve moisture-wicking shirt Jenny and Chuck gave me right before the Cooper River Bridge Run last year. We make it through slippery mud without falling (thanks to the trekking poles, for me anyway). We cross streams, and the closest stream to where we will camp is actually partially iced over.

Crossing over icy streams. Look how hard core I can be!
Crossing over icy streams. Look how hard core I can be!

Speaking of camp, we reach it at 1:45 p.m. Our plan had been to set up camp, then continue the next 3 miles to summit, then make it back down to camp before dark – so 6 more miles. Kevin looks at his watch, says “If we are going to summit, we need to go now.” Jeff hasn’t even reached camp yet – he sent the rest of us with our tents ahead, and Chris is complaining of shoulder pain and saying he feels dizzy. I look at Kevin, realize there’s no way we could leave right now.

“Let’s set up camp,” I say. “We’ll just see where we stand after.”

Kevin agrees. “We can always summit tomorrow.”

We collect firewood. I know from other trips that the huge pile I’ve accumulated while Kevin and Chris set up tents is not nearly enough, although Chris asks at one point, “Isn’t that plenty?” Kevin then teaches us a rule of thumb: Collect the amount of firewood you think you’ll need, then multiply the amount by 5.

It’s officially too late to summit once we get everything set up, but that’s ok. Jeff has gotten a massive fire going (Kevin even calls him “Fire God”), and we are enjoying the company, enjoying the roasted marshmallows and enjoying flasks of rum and Jim Beam (no Jim Beam for me, ick!).


Cooking dinner over a fire. Ah, life.
Cooking dinner over a fire. Ah, life.

At once point the conversation turns to food, specifically meat, specifically bacon.

Kevin: “I love bacon.”

Jeff: “mmm, bacon. Every red-blooded male loves bacon. I don’t know what it is about bacon … right, Chris?”

Chris: “Bacon’s ok, but I prefer sausage.”

Jeff: “That’s the second-gayest thing I’ve ever heard.”

(The first-gayest thing he’d ever heard was said the night before, and I will not repeat it here.)


It’s after dark, and I have to pee. My least favorite time to pee. But it must be done. I walk far enough away from the boys that I don’t inadvertantly moon them. I look around a million times, drop my pants, squat, and look around again. And then I see it: In the woods. A RED LIGHT. Oh my god oh my god oh my god. I haven’t started peeing yet – good thing, because I pull my pants right up anyway. Is someone videotaping me??

I run back to the campsight. “There’s a RED LIGHT over there!” I call out, panicked. Chris and Kevin double over laughing. “It’s Jeff!” they say. “Melissa, have you met Jeff? Your HUSBAND?”

I had no idea he’d gotten up to pee right after me, no idea he’d switched his headlamp from the white light to the red lamp. Is he trying to give me a heart attack??


We continue talking, laughing, keeping warm. We look at the stars and laugh at the weather reports calling for snow and ice. It’s cold, but it’s clear. Finally it’s bedtime. I crawl into my wonderful warm bag for a night of uninterrupted slumber (ha.ha.)

Coming tomorrow: Day 3, Sunday: Do we have to go back to reality?



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