We all chatted for awhile and I felt good that I had such good company during my very first AT shelter experience. We all prepared our dinners for the evening. Hickory prepared some Ramen Noodles (why didn't I think of that) while the other guys and myself heated up water and used it along with our pre-packaged hydrated food pouches that we had brought with us. My meal for the night was going to be lasagna. How good can this be I thought as I poured hot water onto the dried up particles that was to become my dinner. My lasagna actually wasn't that bad as I commented out loud that it was actually better than the lasagna that my wife makes. Side note here: I was lying... my dear, sweet, beautiful wife makes the best lasagna on earth... I was merely making small talk in order to fit in with my new friends. Happy Hour thought that was funny and he decided that my new trail name from now on should be "Lasagna". I told him that wasn't going to fly since I would then have to explain to my wife how I got my name. Nonetheless, he continued to call me Lasagna until we parted ways the next morning. After dinner we all placed our food bags on the bear cables that were beside the shelter and wondered why the bear cables were so close to the shelter. If I was a bear and I came over to investigate the food smell and I saw that I couldn't reach the food I had smelled in the first place, I would then probably just go grab one of the idiots (that's me) that is sleeping in the exposed shelter just a few feet away. The fear of a bear visit was soon to be the least of my issues.
I had decided to sleep inside the shelter for the night (where Hickory was staying) rather than set up my tent (like the other two guys were doing) because it was threatening to rain and I didn't want to go through the hassle of carrying a wet tent with me. Despite the stories of mice running amok and giant owls flying into the shelter to get the mice, I still decided to stay in the shelter (obviously I was losing my mind). Sleeping on a very hard surface is one thing, but I made things worse by zipping myself up inside of my nice sleeping bag. It was only 80 degrees outside and about 180 degrees inside my bag. I was hot but at least the "killer" mice will not get me. It only took about 5 minutes after dark for the first mouse to scamper past my head. I was wide awake at that point and praying for morning light. I finally was drifting in and out of sleep when I heard what can only be described as a either a bear with a serious gas problem or someone using a chain saw. It turned out that Hickory was quite the professional snorer. Perfect. I eventually slept on top of my sleeping bag and didn't care about the mice or the snoring. I think I went to sleep but I'm not sure how much. The next morning the tent dwellers looked a bit more refreshed than I did (wonder why). We all eventually packed our stuff up and parted ways. Despite his unintentional efforts to keep me awake all night, Hickory was a man to be admired. My journey was just beginning while his was about to end. I hope to be just like him in about 20 years as I near the end of my own AT journey - sharing my stories from the trail and possibly keeping some trail rookies up at night if they dare to share shelter space with me.