I went down off into the woods to find a privy bush, and when I returned I noticed that Kirsten and Jennifer were fiddling around my tent. I wondered what was up, but then noticed bright colors inside that hadn't previously been there. They had filled my tent with birthday balloons while I had been away from camp! What a sweet gesture, especially when you consider that Kirsten had carried those balloons and the dental floss she would use to tie them to my pack for over 30 miles through the backcountry!
Soon, we were ready to begin our breakfast and went off to retrieve our packs from the bear cables. Jennifer got hers down first and quickly realized that we had been invaded! Invaded during the night by what seemed like a veritable army of mice. Much to our dismay, they had chewed a hole right through her brand new Osprey Antigravity pack. My pack was victimized too, but no structural damage to the pack itself was done. They did make Swiss cheese out of my dry sack which held all my food and ate what I had planned to have for breakfast. There was more mouse poop in my pack than I care to think about still. They must have had a real party in there! Finally, we did scrounge together enough food to have a breakfast that might actually get us up and back down Gunter Fork, though, then packed our packs lightly, leaving much of our equipment in our campsite, getting ready to slack pack Gunter Fork.
I began to look at the bright side though as we walked down the trail, my birthday balloons now attached to my heavy (because almost everything in it was soaked) pack. We'd had three awesome days in the backcountry of my favorite place, experiencing the wilds and the thrills of accomplishing goals.
We had been able to spend a night at Tricorner Knob Shelter, something that I love doing and that many people never get to do. We had experienced the synchronous fireflies unexpectedly and in its full regalia. I am a stronger hiker than I've been in the past, making better time, doing longer distances, hurting less, and recuperating much more quickly. I have much to be thankful for, not the least of which was that this early ending would allow me to celebrate with family too.
I cannot help but think of Jenny Bennett's family and friends tonight as I post this. My sincerest condolences to her family and to her hiking buddies--what a terrible loss! May the good Lord send you his calming presence to soothe your aching hearts and spirits. May you take comfort in the mountains that she loved so dearly.