Booming thunder awakened me at 5:30. When I looked out the window of my motel room, rain glistened on the pavement at the pre-dawn hour. I lay in bed until my phone alarm announced that 6:00 had arrived. When I walked into the lobby to have breakfast, other hikers were surveying the weather, trying to decide whether to hike or not to hike. I called 10K to get his take on the forecast. Tom said that he was “hard core,” and therefore, would hike. Taking the local’s advice, I asked him to go ahead and pick me up at 7:00. Molar Man and Candy Pants both said they were going back to bed.
By the time I arrived at the trail, the rain was coming down pretty good. Still, since I would only be carrying water and food in my slack pack today, I figured I could hike the planned 21.9 despite the weather. Before Tom drove away at Devil Fork Gap, however, I asked him to be on the alert to come get me at Sam’s Gap if the weather proved too much. He agreed.
So off I walked into a steady rain, not seeing a soul for the first couple of hours. Then just as the sun made a feeble effort to peek through the clouds, I came upon Oaks and Sweet Pea, sitting in front of their tent having some breakfast. In fact, I passed several tents throughout the morning with their occupants still inside I presumed. At some point I noticed the Germans, Restless Cowboy and Fresh Coke taking down their tent. “Hey, Don’s Brother!” Restless Cowboy greeted me. I only paused briefly and then headed on up the trail.
A little later I met my only southbound hiker of the day, Grand Puba, who had thru hiked last year. This year he was out for a short section hike. Then I spotted Nick, the young man from Washington state whose picture I had taken on the exposed ridge line on Monday. We hiked together for a while before he pulled away. Later I passed Nick when he was taking a break and I didn’t see him again after that. I also passed Bulldog just before Big Bald.
The rain returned at around noon and was relentless for about three hours. Even though I was wearing rain gear, I was soaked. I also fell on muddy sections twice. Both were quite comical. I could hear my brother shouting, “safe,” as I went down in a position that resembled a hook slide. The other time I literally hydroplaned for several yards before crashing into some small trees. If anyone had gotten that trick on video, he would have a YouTube sensation. That fall occurred as I hiked down from Big Bald, another open area with I’m sure great views. Today, of course, all I saw was fog. At times the wind and rain almost knocked me over. As the rain pelted me mercilessly, I hiked with one pole, trying to use my other hand to keep my rain jacket hood on.
Then just as suddenly as the downpour had begun, it ceased. By the time I reached High Rock, it was clear enough to enjoy a view and take some pics. Realizing that I had fifty minutes to cover the last two miles, I began the final descent to Spivey Gap, arriving just a few minutes after Tom. It felt good to know that once again I had accomplished big miles, but that I also had a hot shower and bed awaiting. Before he drove away from the motel parking lot, good old 10K made arrangements to shuttle me back to the trail in the morning. I’m planning two more days of slack packing with Erwin as my base before returning to a night in the woods with some of my fellow pilgrims as we continue our journey on the Appalachian Trail.