Today's miles: 24
Total miles: 2194
I woke up last night at 12:30 to the sound of rain hammering on my tent fly. It was so windy on top of our ridge that my tent creaked in the force of it, but refused to topple. When I woke up again at 6 and poked my head out, everything was soggy, and a heavy, white fog settled over us all.
Treekiller, Wocka, Giddyup and I packed up our wet gear and spent the first five miles of our day slowly winding our way downhill. At our first water break we joined a new group of thru-hikers we hadn't met before: Haggis, Running Commentary, Lt. Dan, Boo Boo Kitty Softpaws, Hops and British John. It was nice to have company, though they hiked much faster than we did and quickly left us in the dust.
Our day was a series of five mile climbs and descents, rising in and out of the rainy fog that covered the mountain tops. The climbs were surprisingly difficult for me today. I had skipped dinner last night due to exhaustion and hadn't eaten much before that or this morning, so my body was running on low fuel. My feet dragged and felt like they were strapped with ten pound weights. Lethargy set in, and I could feel myself starting to get cranky and moody, something I've discovered is a final warning sign for my extreme hunger.
When I stopped for a break with Wocka, Giddyup and TK at the top of another climb, I plopped down heavily beside them and sighed, "Today's going to be rough; I can already tell."
Eating a snack helped my energy levels a little, and once again the trail descended for five miles.
As we rounded a bend, TK found a note placed on the trail that read:
"There is a fucking WASPS NEST on trail fifty feet ahead. BEWARE! Imminent pain lies ahead! I tried to run past it and the bastards drew blood. I had to retreat. DO NOT BE BRAVE. Bushwhack around the trail to your left. Hugs, Stumbling Beef."
"Great," Treekiller groaned.
We were on a narrow curve of trail cut into the side of a hill, which meant that bushwhacking was going to be tricky business. Not wanting to get stung, however, we climbed hands-over-feet into the bushes above the trail and thrashed through the trees a bit until we came out again further down the trail, out of sight of the wasps's nest. We learned later that many thru-hikers before and after us had the unfortunate luck of getting badly stung by several wasps there.
We hurried onward, and at the bottom of the descent was a river and a bridge where we hoped to eat lunch. As it turned out, we weren't the only ones there. Haggis, Running Commentary, Lt. Dan, Boo Boo Kitty Softpaws, Hops and British John were already chatting and eating lunch with a woman who had her van parked beside the bridge and was giving out trail magic snacks.
Still grumpy from hunger, I draped my soggy tent over tree branches to dry (though it wasn't very sunny) and pulled out my stove to cook a hot meal. The rush of calories made a huge difference, and by the time we started hiking again, I was feeling better. My tent was only slightly drier, but I figured it would have time to dry overnight if the breeze was stiff enough.
Despite difficult terrain, we were making great time. We had already gone fifteen miles by 2:00 and originally our plan was to only do twenty-two miles to get to a nice, established campsite labeled on trail. But the terrain was so flat for the next seven miles that we breezed through it and got to the campsite much too early. It was difficult to leave; the beautiful trees and flat car-camping spaces were luring us, and the river nearby was lovely. But there was another difficult climb ahead and we decided we wanted to get through as much of it tonight as possible so we wouldn't have to do it first thing in the morning.
We decided to go another five miles, making it a proper 27 mile day. I turned on a podcast and cruised up the climb, feeling strong. But though I was feeling confident, Mother Nature had other plans. Our foggy, misty, wet day finally dropped and it began to rain. Not just rain, but thunder. And as we climbed, the ridge became more and more exposed, and the lightning grew closer and closer, until it was cracking right over our heads. How I hated being caught in thunderstorms outside! There was hardly anything that frightened me more than being without shelter when lighting struck above me. Where was Sunshine when I needed him, to hide under his Tyvek together?
Giddyup was in the lead, and I was running right on Wocka's heels, Treekiller not too far behind.
"I don't think we can make it another three miles in this storm! The elevation profile says we keep climbing!" I yelled to Wocka.
She agreed, so we hurried to catch up with Giddyup, who had fortunately stopped to wait for us at a dirt logging road ahead. By that point we had only covered another two miles, but the rain was coming down harder and it was getting dark very quickly, even though it was only 6:30.
"I say we set up here," I suggested.
They agreed, and we struggled to get our tents set up as fast as we could in a clearing beside the road. The dirt was hard and unagreeable, so I had a tough time getting my stakes planted, which meant my tent was getting more and more drenched by the minute. Not to mention it hadn't fully dried out from last night, so I was already working with a damp canvas. I finally got everything set up and quickly dove inside, using a small towel to mop up water. I could see puddles forming beneath my tent, but so far my groundsheet was keeping it from soaking through. I heard Treekiller set up his tent next to mine, and shortly afterward Haggis, Running Commentary and the others joined us, pitching tents in what was now a downpour.
I lay in my sleeping bag looking up at my tent ceiling and listened to the rain pound on the fly. It lasted through the night and I had a fitful time sleeping, worried my tent would collapse around me. I couldn't remember the last time we had been caught in so strong a storm.