Day 4: A Preternatural Light

I woke in the night to my tent shaking. It seemed like the ground was shaking. A bright light shone against my tarp, casting eerie shadows from the trees upon it. I don’t know if I was half dreaming these sensations, but to make sense of them, I wove together a story that the ridgerunner turned on a floodlight to scare a bear away from camp, and the bear was so big that his rambling through the campsite shook the ground and my tent.

I knew this was unlikely, but what else could this light be? It was so bright that it had to be artificial.

I had to pee. I knew at some point I would need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the privy, and tonight was the night, at 1 am. I got out of my tent, realizing I had slid down because the tent site wasn’t perfectly level. As I approached the privy, I looked toward the light and realized it was coming from the full moon. I couldn’t believe how bright it seemed. The city lights visible on the hillside in the distance paled in comparison.

After visiting the privy, I got back in my tent and repositioned my sleeping pad. I slept a bit fitfully as I kept sliding down. There was condensation forming inside of my tent. Usually with a two walled tent this isn’t a problem, the terrible pitch of the tent caused water to drip onto the inner netting. I was paranoid about getting my sleeping quilt wet. If it got wet, it wouldn’t insulate me from the cold anymore. So I would wake up and reposition to try the keep my quilt away from the condensation. It was difficult because the sagging tent left a low clearance for my feet where my pad kept sliding. It was honestly a mess, but it was the price I paid for not taking more time to troubleshoot pitching my tent on the small tent site.

My tent was not pitched well.


My sleeping pad got wet.

In the morning around 6:30 am, I got up and assessed the damage. Thankfully my quilt wasn’t soaked, but my sleeping pad was. It had slid down enough to touch the sagging tent fabric at the foot of my tent. I would have to deal with that later. The outside of my tent was wet from some showers in the middle of the night, but it wasn’t raining anymore and I fetched my bear can to make breakfast. I wanted proper coffee and the weather had warmed up compared to the last few days, so I had cold cereal after using my fuel to make coffee.

Breakfast this morning.


There’s nothing like a real cup of coffee.

I started hiking around 9:30. I gained a greater appreciation for the shelter life after my first night tenting on trail. Packing up my tent added chores to the regular morning to do list, and it took longer to hit the trail. I was looking forward to returning to a shelter tonight.

A mist blanketed the campsite as I left, and I was again in awe of the beauty around me. As I hiked throughout the day, I appreciated how varied my surroundings were as I proceeded up the trail. Forest-lined dirt path transformed to piles of boulders which led to open meadows, and into a muddy patch with wooden plank footpaths.

View from my campsite in the morning.


One final opportunity to take in the view from Annapolis Rocks.

As I noticed unfamiliar specimens, I would use Seek to learn what they were. Today I found black huckleberry early in the day and Japanese barberry in the afternoon through the muddy patches. There was fragrant honeysuckle near the meadow.

The sun was out in the middle of the day and I stopped at a shelter to dry out my gear. I met the reunion crew there and chatted with them a bit. My sleeping pad dried completely within the 20-30 minutes I had stopped, and I packed it up and continued on my way.

I came to a water crossing and rock hopped to get to the other side. I think I did a decent job, managing to get only a small part of the top of my left foot wet. My trail runners dried very quickly after that.

I proceeded up a big climb. I was pretty tired and excited to reach the shelter. There was a short blue blaze to a lookout once I got to the top. I thought about skipping the blue blaze to just get to the shelter, but decided to check out the view. I was rewarded.

View from Raven Rocks.

I reached the shelter around 5:15, and to my surprise, ran into Phil! We hadn’t seen each other since the morning the day before, but it still felt like a grand reunion since we didn’t camp together last night. He gave me a big hug. As I set up my stuff in the shelter and made myself some dinner, he filled me in about his water filter situation.

He managed to get rides to town and back to the trail from a trail angel to pick up his filter. Before that, he had told the Maryland ridgerunner about his troubles and the ridgerunner gave him a Sawyer mini he had found on trail that day! There’s a saying around here that “the trail provides.” Phil would get a ride from a different trail angel to the post office the next morning for his resupply box.

As Phil told me his story, the reunion crew rolled into camp and set up their tents. I had to get water. It was 0.4 miles down a steep hill to the water source. My feet hurt and I was not thrilled to have to do this chore. I was beginning to understand why there’s a lot of camp chatter about nearby water sources. Every step counts.

Once back in camp, I sat by a fire that another hiker had made. Another miracle had taken place. A hiker found a phone that had been lost and decided to carry it with him in case he ran into the owner. They connected at the shelter and he returned the phone! Given everyone’s different paces and many camping opportunities on trail, this meeting was pretty special.

Before long, I was asleep in the shelter, happy to not have to pitch my tent for the night.

Elevation profile for today’s walk.

AT miles today: 11.7

Elevation gain: 2000′

Total AT miles: 37.5

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Comments 1

  • Cindy Self : May 12th

    When I was little, and we all went camping at Fort Wilderness resort at Disney World. Your dad was actually the one who taught me to not touch the inside of the tent to avoid wicking water in!


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