Because sleeping with a bunch of strangers doesn’t appeal to me, I swore that I wouldn’t be staying in shelters anymore. However, after days of rain and unseasonably cold weather, I either had to stay in one or find myself turned into an ice cube overnight.
I had no idea that I would still need winter gear at this point in VA and this far into the season. After a long day of hiking, we reached the shelter to find that I was shivering uncontrollably. I was hopeful that the empty shelter we arrived at would remain that way, but that was just ridiculous thinking. Byrds Nest Hut, which is designed to sleep 8 was packed with 12 of us poor souls.
When we arrived, there were two hammocks hanging in the shelter, which is a serious shelter faux pas. It’s extremely rude and just shouldn’t be done. Luckily, they belonged to a group of kids camping out for the night in a nearby tent who were merely hanging them to dry from the previous night’s downpour. That same group of kids also started a fire in the hut’s fireplace and shared a bunch of food with us (even though I didn’t partake) and the two other hikers who arrived.
Then the flock started pouring in. Another two hikers showed up, who seemed like they would be reasonable roommates. Then a gaggle of boisterous hikers showed up and that squashed any hope of a peaceful night’s sleep.
Since I have a hammock, I do not carry a sleeping pad, which means a night of uncomfortable rest on a hard surface. I had already curled up in my sleeping bag to try to get warm and wasn’t getting the full visual of the horror that ensued.
My friend and I were the only women in the shelter and that counted for nothing when it came to common courtesy. There was farting, lots of loud farting. There were also some quips referencing said farts so as to almost make it a game. So lovely. I’m not prim, by any means, but after a certain point it just becomes disgusting. Thank goodness the shelter was pretty open so my olfactory senses were not offended.
Of course, all of those vivacious gentlemen, with all of their energy, seem to have no trouble falling asleep in minutes, while I lie awake trying to put my annoyance behind me. In addition to being completely uncomfortable, the fact that everyone else was already sleeping annoyed me further.
It wasn’t only the fact that everyone else seems to have no trouble sleeping, it was also the fact that they are now snoring that also prevented me from falling into sweet slumber. I don’t think ‘snoring’ adequately describes the thunderous rumbles emanating from one man in particular. It was almost like a rolling thunder that crept from this man’s mouth.
When I finally fell asleep, I was awoken by crinkling, gnawing, and scratching noises. This can only mean one thing…someone neglected to follow protocol and did not hang their food bag (or left some food inside their pack in the shelter) and a critter was now dining for free. Mice are known to chew through hikers’ backpacks to get to any goodies that may be inside. I now laid awake listening to make sure that our little friend didn’t venture over to my side of the shelter. Although I didn’t have any food in my pack, I was paranoid about having my gear chewed up (especially since I had a dream about a mouse chewing through my hammock the night before).
Morning quickly came and I found myself having to use the privy. I ventured out of the shelter, turned the corner and nearly knocked over a guy peeing on the side of the shelter. Seriously, with all the open space we were in, he had to relieve himself right outside of the shelter? I should have knocked him over.
Then there’s the public changing space. There’s not much you can do about this. There’s nowhere to go and change your clothes when it’s raining outside and changing of clothes needs to be done. Nowhere else in the world can you get undressed with a bunch of strangers of the opposite sex and it be okay.
Thank goodness what happens in the shelter, stays in the shelter.