I’m about to move. As in, I’m gone this Thursday. Wow. Louisville, KY, here I come.
It’s getting hard, I have to admit. I’ve choked up a few times. I’ve said my goodbyes to Sardis Baptist Church, to close friends (Mark, Andrew, Caleb [by phone], Adam, and Matt), and to my mom. That one was really hard. They all were, but especially that one.
I want to tell you one of the particularly good “saying goodbye” stories that have happened recently. All of my goodbye celebrations have been great (the night at Taco Mac with Mark, Andrew, and their wives; the church send-off; seeing The Simpsons Movie with Adam, etc.). However, this past weekend I said my goodbye to one of my best friends, Matt, in a particularly adventuresome way. We hiked a couple of miles on the Appalachian Trail together and camped on the tip top of Blood Mountain, Georgia’s second highest peak. This was hard for me. I’m working on getting myself into shape, but it is coming slowly, and the steep, rocky trail, mixed with sometimes quite heavy rain was almost too much for me… almost. We did it, and it was well worth the effort. The views up there, and the natural environment itself, were an incredible blessing. We reached the camping shelter at the top of the mountain well before nightfall and, deciding to sleep there rather than pitch a tent, we proceeded to fix dinner (freeze-dried eggs) and settle in.
Now, if you are in any way familiar with the A.T., you probably know that the shelters placed sporadically throughout it are notorious for having resident mice. Well, Matt and I had more or less dismissed that concern, taking into account that we were making extra efforts not to leave any food or crumbs anywhere in the shelter, once we reached it. We also did not see any mice for the majority of the evening. That is, until we settled into our sleeping bags. Squeek. What was that? Shine the light. A mouse… there, running up the wall. Crap.
Now my good buddy, alpha-male though he may sometimes seem to be, has quite a phobia of mice… and I’m not far behind. This changed circumstances instantly for us. What do we do? Should we look for a place to camp… go pitch the tent somewhere? Let’s do it here… we can pitch it inside the shelter… the mice won’t get in the tent. So we did. We continued to hear the mice scurrying throughout the night, quite unsettling for us both, but we did find enough peace of mind to finally get a little bit of sleep. It took a while with those horrid, creepy little critters running about. We both agreed that, in reality, we probably would be much more comfortable with a bear or a snake than with mice. The last words I heard before we went to sleep (for the first time)… “Shh… lets go to sleep so the mice won’t eat us.”
We were awakened in the middle of the night by voices outside our cabin. A group of guys… seeming to be in their late teens or early twenties. And smoking pot. This was quite obvious, as they were talking about it and other drugs. They stayed around for a while. Matt and I acclimated ourselves to our newly awakened state, vented our frustration about the potheads nearby and the rodents (who were now making more noise than ever). Time passed. The guys left, but we were now fully awake, and it seemed like we would not be going back to sleep. As the light of the 5:00 pre-dawn slowly began to move into the sky, we had almost given up hope of getting any more time of slumber. Then it hit us. I guess the trip up the mountainside and the lack of sleep was enough to finally put us under until our watch alarms woke us in the morning.
We woke up to find that our stuff had not been eaten by mice (nor had we). Indeed, not a thing had been touched. We stepped outside to find no more rain, but a decent swarm of bees buzzing about. Despite these creatures, we caught a nice morning view of the mountains from the top of a nearby rock formation as we laid our clothes from the previous day out to dry (this was not successful… they were quite soaked from both the rain and our sweat). Alas, it was tim to move out and hike back down the mountain. So after we ate some plain oatmeal (disgusting!) and packed our gear, we began the descent. With only one mishap (I slipped on a rock and got a nice little scrap on my arm) and quite lovely weather, we were able to make it back down much quicker than our journey up. My knees and quads are still recovering, however, from the constant self-breaking of descending a steep mountainside for two miles.
After showering and eating lunch (provided by Matt’s girlfriend, Lauren), it was time for me to go. I’m going to miss that kid, but if I had to have a good “won’t see you for a couple of months” celebration, I can’t think of a better one than this awesome adventure with my spiritual brother… rain, mice, potheads, bees, and all.