Today’s Miles: 20.2
Total Miles: 3,213.8
Near Hausach, Germany – December 9, 2016
I hear a voice and wake up, listening. Faint traffic filters up from the valley below. Trees rustle in the wind. A faint voice again. I sit up.
I don’t sleep well on the trail. I only half sleep. Something about not having walls and doors between me and the world. The caveman brain never quite shuts down. It’s always part awake, always searching for the footsteps of a sabertooth tiger. The best I can hope for is catching rest an hour or two at a time through the night.
I turn my head and listen. Did I imagine the voices?
Friday nights are never a good time to sleep close to a road. I still remember reading that in a guidebook for the Appalachian Trail. It’s too easy for weekend partiers to stumble out of their cars and into your camp. Get a mile away at least.
But this little hut looked so warm, perched on its knob of rock. Who would come here at night in the cold? I look at my watch. It’s midnight.
I waited a long time before actually stretching out and going to sleep. I wanted to be sure no one would come. I watched the last of sunset disappear and the valley below light up. The Kinzig river cuts deep through the mountains here, carving a path for an artery of roads, rail, and towns follow. At night, all that civilization looks like stars clustered in the darkness of the mountains, a long line of electricity and flashing headlights.
I hear voices again. There is no mistaking them. Busted I think. I flash on my headlamp, better to let them know I’m here than to surprise someone. I open the cabin door and look out.
A flashlight and three figures in the darkness. My heart sinks. I wasn’t imagining the voices. I wave and welcome them. They stop and then approach slowly. Police? Some drunk guys out to cause trouble?
Three girls. We look at each other in the moonlight. Maybe sixteen, I think, though I can’t really see them in the dark. I thank my luck that they speak a bit of english so I can apologize for being there. They file into the cabin and we sit across from each other at the table staring at each other. I apologize again. I know I shouldn’t be there, but it just looked so warm.
“You sleep here?” they ask.
“Just tonight,” I say.
I hand them my phone with the map of every night back to Kinnarodden. I want them to see the phone more than the map. They must think I’m a crazy person. Giant beard, sleeping on a bench in the cabin. If they see the phone then maybe they won’t think I’m going to rob them.
They stare at it in disbelief, then ask me how I keep it charged. I point to a battery pack. They speak to each other in German and I sit awkwardly.
“We came here to drink,” they tell me.
I laugh. I feel even more guilty for interrupting their night. I imagine they had it all planned, sneaking booze away from some parent’s cupboard or finally passing a fake ID by a bored cashier.Alcohol in hand, they waited for their parents to fall asleep and snuck out to this cabin they know about just outside of town. Only, when they get there, they find a ragged-looking caveman sitting there in the dark, speaking english, and messing with his phone.
“Well,” I say. “Feel free.”
They talk a bit amongst themselves and decide to head off to some other drinking spot. I don’t blame them. It will probably be caveman free. I wish them luck and watch their light fade away down the path before I return to my sleeping bag and try to sleep again.
“Well,” I think, “I guess that’s better than a sabertooth tiger.”