After retiring very early again to get out of the cold, I was startled out of my sleep by the sound of an animal very close to the tent -- a yelp? Definitely doglike. The animal followed up with a series of modulated calls, almost like a sentence (don't worry, it's just one of those human lairs?) In any case, the next thing I heard several minutes later was the sound of several of them howling in the distance.
It did occur to me that I would have to defend myself alone if the animal took offense, and I did a quick review. Yes, all food and smelly stuff hung up. No, knife not within reach. Correct that next time.
That led me to thinking about how much I have learned about backpacking over the past year. What I need to carry, how to set up and strike camp, how to plan and do safely, and how to keep going when I'm tired and uncomfortable.
Like now, for example, my third cold night in a row. That's okay, though, I cleared Apple Orchard Mountain and should finish this entire wilderness area by the day after tomorrow. Others may do the same in a day or two summiting the mere 3000 to 4000 foot climbs with ease, but for me it is a reassurance that I can climb out of the shadows where I had fallen.
I am still alive. Not dead yet, either.
A couple of groups of northbound hikers crawling up the slopes to Mount Orchard were talking plans to get over Apple Orchard and down the other side. I was polite.
Not able to spring back too quickly myself, though. Thighs cramped up in the first few miles, so I dropped plans to cross the next mountain (there's always a next mountain) and stopped short at Bryant Creek, the second two story shelter I have seen ... with trail angel beer waiting! (Mich Lite, but the price was okay).
No tent space, so this is going to be my first night sleeping in an AT shelter. With three other grayhairs and twelve girls? I've got my earplugs.