A drizzly morning at Stover Creek Shelter
April 2, 2000 -- Day 2
Destination: Campsite on Sassafras Mountain
Today's miles: 8.5
Trip miles: 11
Last night, I heard the first few drops of rain go, "Whap .. whap, whap!" on my tent, and then the clouds split open. I considered dodging lightning bolts and running to the shelter -- not that I was scared, mind you -- but I'd thought the shelter was full. And it was raining so hard, I really didn't want to get out of my tent ... even though the rain was coming in. Yes, I learned some more valuable lessons last night. Allow me to share a few.
First, if you have a tent like mine -- a single-walled, four-season tent with a tube vent -- the vent should be in the out position when it's raining. When pulled into the tent, said vent acts as a funnel. Now, if I'd had my head at that end instead of my feet and backpack, I would likely have been awakened by the steady cascade pouring down on my face. Needless to say, when a loud crack of thunder woke me a second time, I was laying in a puddle and much of my pack was moist.
Next lesson of the night: If you are awake to hear those first few raindrops, it's a good idea to decide then if you might have to answer nature's call. If you don't, chances are you'll have to choose between waiting uncomfortably, possibly for a very long time, or facing the brutal elements. I chose to wait. I waited until morning. And I ended up peeing in the rain anyway.
Third insight: Don't forget about anything you may have hung on a nearby tree for airing. A sunny day and starry night can quickly turn into what ours did. I learned that the hard way, too.
I say all of the above with a smile, because of the fact that I am learning. That's one of the many reasons I'm out here.
When Joker, Marie and I finally left Stover Creek this morning and said goodbye to Kathy and Dianne, and "See you up the trail, maybe" to Free-Spirit Fran and Virgil, it was noon. We hiked five miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter in a drizzle over fairly easy terrain, but took our time on the slippery trail. Sometimes I do enjoy hiking in the rain, and this was one of those times. Deep in thought, I hadn't realized that I'd hiked ahead a bit, and suddenly there was no one else to be seen. I enjoyed the quiet time.
Not long before reaching the shelter, I looked up from the ground two feet in front of my own feet to see two familiar faces -- my friends, Dennis and Robin, both from Marietta, Georgia. They'd been looking for me since yesterday and finally found me, glowing in my bright orange rain poncho, as they hiked southbound. We waited at Hawk Mountain shelter for Joker and Marie, had some lunch when they arrived, and then communally decided to move on. We were fortunate to have a break in the rain for the rest of the afternoon.
The five of us are now camped on the tree-covered summit of Sassafras Mountain. We shared a potluck dinner in the fog and were able to dry some of our things around the campfire. As I lie here in my tent, writing by headlamp, I'm hearing distant thunder. Sounds like the rain will continue, as we've been told. In the morning, Dennis and Robin will hike with us for a mile to Justus Creek, where they'll refill their water bottles and have breakfast before backtracking to their van. We're so glad they came out. Thanks, guys! I hope to see you again up the trail.
Final thought before bed....
I really appreciate that other hikers are so willing to offer unsolicited help with things like lighting my stove and organizing my pack. At the same time, a little voice in my head says, "Please let me figure this out for myself." It isn't that I won't ask for advice, as I've done a few times over the past two days, but the challenge of doing things with my own hands and becoming more efficient and self-sufficient on the trail is something I've looked forward to. It's comforting, however, to know there are many hikers eager to help those of us who are a bit green in some areas. The camaraderie and support are everything I'd hoped for.