Finding myself alone at Three Forks I was pleased by the fact that I could fumble with my equipment without anyone noticing my rookie like actions. I crawled into my bag about 6:30 and actually fell to sleep when BAMM!!!!! The woods came alive.
Orders were being barked out with many men screaming in response. Everyone counted to three over and over. The cadence was continuous and it must have been multiple platoons because they were all in a different time so it sounded like a massive Row Row Row your boat. I had camped in the middle of a U.S Army Ranger unit. Then they were pounding something and it seemed that they were cutting wood with a sledge hammer. This went on from 11:30 PM to 03:00 AM. My toes were cold so when they were doing the cadence I flexed my toes with the beat and they actually got warm. When they got quiet I fell to sleep only to wake up to 1..2.3…at 06:00.
I had no choice… get up and hike. I tried to eat a protein bar but it was frozen. Walking would help. I got 300 feet from my site and walked slap into an army tent blocking the trail. Once I worked my way around it three troopers came by me and realized it was a problem with the tent. I told them don’t worry about it because their 1..2.3 cadence had kept my toes warm last night. I did tell them that I thought we had counted to 4 when I was in the Army…. they told me they had to dumb it down. We departed friends along with another hiker who had caught up with me. He was a retired ex marine who kept saying that he hoped his 9 year old son would miss him.
The day ended up being 12.7 miles with stops at Long branch Falls and Hawk Mountain. Along the way I met Logan, a young man from British Columbia and a guy I call Memphis only because he had never uttered his name. I was uplifted because I managed to pass more hikers than passed me. This is no race and I’m in no hurry but it was good to know I was at least average.
My goal was Gooch Mountain Shelter but it was packed. Logan and I opted to move onto Gooch Gap a mile and a half further. Night was falling , I was putting my tent up after a wonderful Chicken meal when “snap” my tent frame broke. Happiness is a broken tent and sleeping bag. Things were going well. I wrapped the tent fly around the center ring and prayed that it would hold the night. It was going to be colder and it had already snowed on us that morning. I drifted off to sleep very aware of a lopsided tent and cold air attacking my body through the broken zipper. I’m having fun.