Years ago some friends and I decided to go backpacking near the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia. Two of the guys were experienced backpackers, both from the area. The other 3 of us were not. One of the guys brought his dog, Smoky. He was a black and white long haired mutt that looked part collie and part St. Bernard. He was awesome. A gentle giant who was quick to lick your face and eat your food. He was also a pretty good watchdog and was quick to bark if bears were around, so they said. He made us feel safe anyway.
It was a beautiful late February day, with a bright sun and clear sky. The temperature was in the 50’s, breezy and cool. We saw an abundance of small animals and enjoyed the emerging plant life, as well as the evergreens that were bountiful in that area. By the way, in the fall, the leaves in the north Georgia mountains are wonderful to see. I grew up in Texas and had not been accustomed to fall colors until moving to Tennessee. It was easy to get hooked on them. Smoky chased rabbits and squirrels. He was agile for his size. He was big enough to give rides to kids, after all. Thankfully, we never saw any bears and he never barked, so we felt pretty good about having him there.
I relished the company and the scenery, thankful for the beautiful weather and the opportunity to be in the mountains of north Georgia. After hiking we relaxed around the fire and ate a good camp supper: beans, sausage, and potatoes. Smoky helped himself to whatever he could find and I shared some of my sausage and beans with him as I got seconds. .
“Oh no! Don’t do that! He’ll have terrible gas all night long’
“Sorry. Didn’t know.”
“Yeah, well he’s gonna use your tent if he get’s started”.
Laughter all around as we made SMORES for dessert and drank hot chocolate. When I had eaten my fill, I got really sleepy and headed to bed. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and started dreaming of the awesome day and anticipating the adventures that awaited us tomorrow.
That night, however, became a frigid, icy contrast to the mild weather we experienced all day long. Winds howled, tree limbs ached, and the temperatures dropped well below freezing. In a zero degree sleeping bag, however, cold weather like that really isn’t too bad as long as you don’t have to get out or expose any body parts to the outside. It is horrible if you have to get up and use the bathroom or are sharing a tent with someone (who shall remain nameless) who needs to go.
So there I was, asleep in my bag. Warm and toasty, dreaming of frosty mornings with snowbanks and baby polar bears prancing. Faintly, there is distant sound disturbing me.
“Roar” (my polar cups stop to look around and sniff the air)
“ROAR!!!” (they start running, looking behind them, crying for their mother) I start to rouse.
“PSST! Are you awake?”
Suddenly I startle awake. “Was that a scream? Oh man! What is that smell?” Scared and confused, I am barely awake. I don’t have my glasses but I look up and see icicles in my tent, hanging like stalactites. “What time is it?” I wriggle my arm out of my bag to look at my watch. COLD! COLD! COLD!
How cold was it? There was a Yeti sititng next to the campfire trying to warm himself, shivering, talking bad about winter in the south.
It was 2 AM.
(slightly louder) ‘Hey! Are you awake?”
My polar bear cubs evaporate and the snow melts into a puddle. The yeti has now grabbed 2 black bears and has them wrapped around him like a blanket, but is getting angry, trying to figure out thow to cook SMORES. “smores. SMORES!”
“I am now. What is it? Man, what is that smell?”
“I have to use the bathroom”
(stunned silence. All the snow melted in to a yellow puddle right in front of my warm comfy sleeping bag. Yeti quits griping about his SMORES and looks at me. “Huh?” )
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes I heard you. What do you want me to do about it?”
“I really have to go”
“AND….” (Yeti’s shoulders are heaving up and down, laughing. Hershey wrappers flying.)
“What should I do?”
“Well, I guess you can hold it till morning so you don’t freeze to death, but your bladder may explode. Or you can go outside and freeze to death. Or you can pee in your bag. It will freeze and you will be a pee-cicle in the morning. We can thaw you out next to the Yeti.”
Yeti: “Uh-Uh. That’s gross. Got any more Hershey’s?”
“Goodnight.. Man…..is that you?”
“I really need to go”
“I think you do too. So go. You want me to help you or something? Sorry, but I am not getting out of this bag”
Yeti: “What are you griping about? I’m freezing out here. Got any crackers?”
“Aren’t there bears here?”
“Yeti: “Not any more” (burp)
“See? He got hungry. They probably froze to death when they went to pee.”
“Where should I go?”
“I would prefer you go to sleep, but that doesn’t seem possible, so go outside, find a tree and pee. Good luck and leave a trail. I am going to sleep. If you don’t make it I will need to have enough energy to retrieve your body tomorrow. GoodNIGHT!”
Yeti: “Yeah, come out and I’ll show you a good place. (sniff, sniff) What is that smell?”
Well, you likely figured out that it all came out fine. Amazing how fast you can go when it is sub-freezing outside. I guess the yeti was too busy eating SMORES and shivering to bother with the leaking human. Besides, with the bears wrapped around him he looked more like a big zebra and couldn’t move too quickly, so he didn’t trouble anyone. We found out later that the winter storm we slept through dropped the temperature to 10 degrees that night and that it was truly a danger to be outside.
That was the last time we ever saw the Yeti. Actually, I was the only one who really saw him. In fact, my account is the only time one has ever been seen in the southern states. They tell me it couldn’t be true, but I know what I saw. Hershey wrappers, graham cracker crumbs, black and white patches of fur. And that smell! Horrible! Ok, I know you have never smelled Yeti, but let me try and explain it.
It’s kind of like a pot of burned beans covered in burned chocolate.
Now add really bad gas.