To read the first part of this series click here.
After we helped each other set up our tents, we were finally able to relax. You've got to remember: We're a couple of middle-aged, overweight men who if either of us had to do a push-up, there's a ninety percent chance we would snap our arms in half and shit our pants, simultaneously.
I say that with pride as I scratch my man nuggets.
Of course, each of us had cushioned air mattresses with battery operated air pumps. Too old to sleep on a floor. Too old and out of shape to manually blow up an air mattress. Unlike the old days, when we were in our twenties, we wouldn't have been able to survive the night in the present, lying directly on the floor of a tent.
When we were in our twenties, we would hike up these insane mountains, carrying heavy backpacks and later sleep on the ground at night, on the edge of cliffs.
After the tiresome event of setting up camp, unloading our stuff from the truck and carrying this or that 3000 lb object here or there, we rewarded ourselves by sitting in fold up chairs, feeling as used up as a toothless crack ho named Lameeshqua.
I was so flippin' beat, I couldn't pour myself a drink. We did manage to build a fire, that first night, if I recall. We sat before that fire, staring into the flames, chatting about the The Firebucket Man. You'll have to read Part One of this story in order to know who I'm talking about.
We both turned in for the night, going into our tents. Then sometime in the middle of the night, I have a surreal experience in the dark of my tent. I feel like I'm going bat shit crazy. I feel like someone is attacking me inside my tent. I don't know if I'm dreaming this or half dreaming this or what. My sister suffers from night terrors but to my knowledge, I don't remember ever having an incident of that type.
My friend, Steve, said he awoke from this terrible guttural, growling noise emanating from my tent sometime that night. Now Steve is a very sound sleeper. He lives in an apartment near the railroad tracks in the busiest part of town and he can sleep through pretty much anything. Sirens going off. Fireworks. You name it. So when he says that I woke him up, that's significant news.
He thought maybe there was a bear and a dog fighting outside over food. My friend was desperately trying to remember if we had left any food outside, due to carelessness and utter exhaustion.
Every few seconds, I would let out a shriek in the previous calm of the night. He said he heard noises he couldn't describe coming from my tent and it was causing him major concern. At one point, he slowly unzipped his tent window and saw the bottom portion of my tent bucking around, like I was kicking it. I do remember kicking at my imagined attacker and punching at it's body.
Steve said he didn't know whether to go out of his tent and ask if I was alright or perform an exorcism.
Fearing that I would stab him in the chest, if he tried unzipping my tent door, with the Bowie knife I had brought with me, Steve stayed away. All of the commotion was apparently that bad.
The next morning, I was groggy and my throat was hoarse (I guess from all the noises I had made). My friend told me what happened throughout the night and I told him I thought maybe I was dreaming or that I had a panic attack of some kind. I offered to him the fact that I'm not a big fan of being in complete darkness. That may have instigated a chain of reactions in me that night but I'm not really sure what it was. Maybe it was Steve's infamous god-awful snoring that can be heard from two towns away that made me go mad. It's still a mystery.
The following nights, I doubled up on my prescription Valium to help me sleep and to help defeat the ear-bleeding decibels of snoring coming from Steve's tent. It worked. No more bear/dog/Satanic noises came from me, according to Steve. No more "dreams", either, other than a few boring ones involving a toothless crack ho and a Pee Wee Herman bobble-head. You know... the usual.
The following days we enjoyed moments of serenity as we walked on some trails and over and under a few natural sandstone bridges. There were spots along the trails where the views of Red River Gorge could truly invigorate your soul.
At one point, we saw this lizard with a chopped off tail, sitting on a trail sign, and we, in our drunken state, competed with each other in seeing how good of a close up shot we could take with our cameras. Each shot, we got increasingly closer and closer. The lizard thought we were probably nuts. Amazingly, he didn't move the whole time. After twenty minutes or so of this nonsense, we finally walked the trail to Gray's Arch. Likely, much to the lizard's relief.
Here are some pics of plants, mushrooms, trees and berries. None of which were ingested. Especially, the trees. They're kind of hard to swallow.
There were trails that had a shitload of steps to travel up and down. Though they provided a challenge, they were worth the scenic viewpoints we were lucky to be immersed in.
This year, there had been a number of incidents where bears had come into the campsites and were freaking people out, which is understandable. A few people have been attacked by bears, in the past, at The Gorge. The area is also famous for people falling off the cliffs along the trails. Here's one memorial, out of a dozen or so, dedicated to those who have died while hiking the high altitude trails. Ya gotta be careful, folks! Tee hee.
Every so often, you'll encounter signs like these at the beginning or along the trails.
Enlarge and read the cautionary print for a chuckle.
On the trail leading to Half Moon Arch, we met a guy with two dogs that had little red "saddles" on their backs. Each "doggie backpack" had two big pockets. My friend asked the pet owner what the dogs were carrying. The guy said, without missing a beat, "Bottled water and their poop."
This dude was so conscientious about his dogs leaving poop on these rough trails, hardly walked paths, that he had his dogs carry their own shit with them wherever they went. I thought that was particularly nice and thoughtful of him. Especially the part where he had his dogs packing and lugging his bottled water for him, as well.*
And hey, at least they weren't carrying his shit.
We met a lot of interesting folks during our stay at The Gorge. Tomorrow, I will offer up the 3rd installment to this adventure. In this next episode, you will learn how to cook a deer over an open fire and you'll encounter other odd and wonderful sights along the way. See you there!