If you had asked me before this past weekend whether I liked backpacking, my response would have been a resounding yes. However, after this most recent experience, I am not so sure. Shall I tell you about the daddy longlegs which found its way into our tent? Or shall I mention the angry, attacking yellowjackets? Or perhaps the hopping roaches(???) that proceeded out of a latrine I had JUST used? Or, hey, perhaps you would like to hear about all three! Here goes.

Hubby and I went to Savage Gulf State Park in Tennessee on Friday. We hiked in along a ridge to a campsite that Hubby assured me was 4-5 miles in from the ranger station. I felt pretty much like I was dying, so imagine my pleasure at reaching the campsite and seeing a sign that read "Ranger Station: 7 miles." I felt much less out of shape. Also imagine my pleasure at seeing a TOILET! Granted, it was a glorified permanent porta-potty, with a seat over a hole dug into the ground, but it was relatively clean. I had the fleeting thought that creatures might live in there, but Hubby convinced me none would want to live down there, or at least none that would want to bite my butt. We set up camp, had a lovely dinner, and crawled into the tent to sleep when it got dark.

That is, until I felt things crawling on me. I tried to convince myself I was imagining them, but the feeling persisted. After a few minutes, I reached behind me and...touched something. So I did the only rational thing and shrieked. Hubby bolted awake and gallantly removed the daddy longlegs. And then I slept.

The next day, we set out on a downward hike into the gulf. Hubby went first and hacked away at spider webs every several feet, and I walked with a constant chorus of buzzing in my ears, which might explain why I didn't notice when the buzzing became less like gnats and more like, oh, angry yellowjackets. That is, until I felt a stinging sensation on my arm. And then on my ankle. And then on my other arm. And then I saw the hollow log that was full of swarming yellow things. I started trotting down the trail swatting at myself, prompting Hubby to ask if I were being stung by something. Only just as he said the words, he also said, "OW!" And we realized we were under attack. We dropped our packs and scurried unceremoniously away from the beasts. After extracting them from my hair, the tongue of my boot, and Hubby's pants leg, we were able to catch a breath and survey the damage. Each of us had several bites, but no stingers. We coated them in Sting-Eez and gingerly re-donned our packs to continue on.

We had been told that there was only water at one spring, so we went about a mile off our route to the next campsite in order to re-fill our 9 or so liters. Hubby had to scramble into the recesses of a cave of sorts in order to find drips and pools of enough substance to fill our bottles. I sat and watched blue butterflies while he did the work. I am, after all, a total feminist. ;-)

We finally finished the water-getting excursion and hit our trail, the oh-so-cleverly named "Connector Trail." I read the sign with a sense of triumph: "Hobbs Cabin: 3.2 miles." Hey, I had hiked 7 miles the day before! 3.2 was nothing!

Except it was 3.2 miles along the trail of death.

The entire trail, at least the portion of the trail that climbed upward across 800 feet of elevation, was strewn with giant boulders, so it was less like walking and more like gingerly placing one's feet, one at a time, on rocks wich may or may not be exactly stable. And if a rock were not stable, and you were to fall, well, you would just go careening down a treed hillside. NBD. It was probably the most physically demanding thing I have ever done, and I almost stopped and cried at least twice. Hubby even offered to go ahead to the campsite and then come back to take my pack so I could hike unburdened. Luckily, I did not ask this of him, because we were both nearly dead when we reached the campsite.

At said campsite, I was again pleased to see not one, but TWO toilets! After setting down our things, checking out the feeble water source and being glad we had filled up elsewhere, I set out for said toilet. This one was far less clean than the first, and I knocked a spider off the inside of the door so that it could not crawl on me as I did my business. However, as I finished up, I felt like I was hearing small noises. I exclaimed, "oh my gosh" as I noticed a thing hopping towards my foot. I was done, so I shoved open the door and bolted out, only to perceive two more of the things hopping OUT OF THE LATRINE ON WHICH I HAD JUST BEEN SEATED. I screamed and ran down the path away from the toilet while Hubby guffawed at me, even though HE had been the one to assure me that no creatures lived in the latrine. However, I did not see HIM rushing in to use it after that. He decided they looked like hopping roaches, but so far Google has yet to confirm that such a creature exists.

I used the woods as my bathroom the rest of that evening and cringed in discomfort every time I remembered the hopping things. I did not sleep well that night.

After a measly 8.2 mile hike out on Sunday, the last two miles of which found every step sending a shooting pain across my feet, we made it to the car, ridiculously sweaty and smelly but ultimately no worse for the wear.

I guess you could say it was a memorable weekend.

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman