“Sorry I was that bad hiker that showed up after 9.” I told Donna.
“That’s okay, at least you got here before 10. It’s not really for us, it’s for the neighbors. People walking along this road at night gets all the dogs riled up and barking.” She told me this as she ferried another carload of hikers down to the store to resupply. She splits carpool duty with another angel who likes driving people around. The dedication of these angels never fails to amaze. The Saufleys go so far as to rent porto-potties and get extra water deliveries. They have an extra mobile home behind their house for hikers to lounge in slovenly air conditioned delight.
I spent the morning watching dogs and chickens and hikers. Two people were hiking with dogs. The two little ones were handy when the rooster got overly aggressive. I’d meant to leave earlier, but Donna convinced me to stick around. “A caterer is coming by later to serve dinner. You should stay.” I stayed.
Since there was a big waterless section coming up, everyone was talking about night hiking. A few people left in the afternoon. When it finally started to cool down, I caught a ride with Fred out to the trailhead. He dropped me a dirt road next to some high tension wires. I wandered down the path till sunset. The moon was bright so I didn’t need my headlamp for a long time. But then I went to grab it and .. shit… I don’t have my headlamp.
I still had one bar of phone reception. I called Hiker Heaven. Indeed, my headlamp was in the hiker hut, right on the table where I’d been watching Back To The Future.
I turned around and started walking back. If night hiking is in my future, I need a headlamp.
It was after ten by the time I got back into town. This time I remembered my long forgotten sneaking-out skills. Walk on the pavement, not the gravel, so your footsteps don’t wake up all the dogs. Minor teenage delinquency did teach me some skills after all.
Just after 11, I walked in to Hiker Heaven without raising a ruckus. Some drunk hikers were stumbling up stumbling around, talking about how much they were going to hike. I got my light, then flopped down by the hay bales. Seven extra miles that I would re-walk early the next morning. I tried not to think about how far down the trail I’d be if I had done a final check of crucial gear.