It’s the middle of the night. Ethan and I hiked in for our third week on the Missouri Gulch trail today, or (judging by the depth of night) possibly yesterday. Recently it has not been hard for me to sleep through until morning, but tonight I am wide-awake.
Since the monsoon season started I have been getting plenty of sleep. We work eight to ten hours a day and the rain drives us off the mountain by 2:30pm. Once we return to camp there are usually two or so hours to kill before the rain subsides so we head to our tents. I struggle to stay awake the entire time by reading or writing in my journal. Neither works for long as I let my heavy eyelids slip into darkness. The rain subsides and I am instantly aroused by my empty stomach. Ethan and I entertain ourselves by playing Heads-up-UNO, something the two of us developed in order to carry on a long term two person UNO game (the rules are still being developed and will be released upon completion). After we eat and the food-coma hits, there isn’t much time until my body gives out, so it is bed by darkness which is typically around 9pm.
As I lie in my tent tonight, I realize that we have been relatively lucky when it comes to meandering creatures in the alpine tundra; for the past month while working on the 14ers I have yet to run across any troublesome wildlife. Of course this has not deterred me from being cautious, especially after all of the horror stories I’ve heard from other staff members. They talk about everything from marmots chewing into your tent for some delicious sweaty-salty clothing to field mice rummaging through your backpack for yesterdays avocado peel. Needless to say I’ve been careful, so I am startled when I wake to tiny footsteps in my tent’s entryway. In a sleepy haze, I growl hoping to scare whatever it is off, then turn my headlamp on low and pointed it towards the noise outside (hoping to dissuade any nocturnal life from mischief). Thankfully, nothing greets the shaft of light emanating from the tent door.
After a night of wariness, the alarm at 4 AM is a welcome start to the day. I hop out of my sleeping bag greeted by morning birds and a pleasant mix of residual moonlight above and sunlight beaming behind the eastern ridge. As Ethan and I discuss the typical morning affairs, I keep noticing a little something moving out of the corner of my eye, and quickly recognize its small body as characteristic of your everyday alpine chipmunk. To my surprise this animal has no fear, and nears our food bags as we tend to our breakfast. By the end of breakfast we have concluded that Theodore, from the original cast of Alvin and the Chipmunks, has a summer cottage by the cabin ruins on the Missouri Gulch trail. He obviously indulges in a few too many hiker scraps because Theodore is quite possibly the biggest chipmunk I have ever seen. So if you venture near Belford, Oxford of Missouri Mountain, be sure to keep an eye out for rodents.