2019-Day 56: thunderstorm edition

A Whippoorwill decided to sing the song its people in the middle of the night. I heard but it didn’t keep me awake. Sadly I cannot say the same for Oakland. It rained on and off throughout the night but after the initial downpour and splashing, we stayed dry save the dampness of the air. I turned to Oakland around 6 and we conferred about how our nights went. She headed off to the rhododendrons with her TP and trowel. I lay there willing my eyes to stay open for a few minutes. Then I pulled on my ankle brace and gathered my bathroom supplies to make my own trip to the bushes upon Oakland’s return. In our previous pooping lessons, I told her about leaving a stick upright in the chosen morning location so we don’t try to dig cat holes in the same spot.

On my way back from the rhododendrons, I pulled down our food bags. It was hard on my hands because the bags were on the same line and the wetness of the rope proved a bit tricky with the nubbliness of the stick. I finally managed to get the knot undone and walked back to our tent with my right hand throbbing.

I saw a lightly broken path up to the field behind our tent. I couldn’t resist the morning light, so I carefully dodged the poison oak to check out the view. Walked up to field behind campsite a few yards and saw this misty scene.

After waiting a couple of minutes to watch the evolving light, I went back to the tent to change clothes and help Oakland pack up. The bottom of the tent wasn’t nearly as trashed as I had expected after all the rain. Teatime emerged from her tent and gifted us the bag of s’mores fixings she’d hoped to share the night before.

Oakland and I took our bags and poles down to the fire ring to eat breakfast. We were both grateful for the dry skies while we ate. Blaze let out the cutest excited dog noise when teatime put on his saddle bags, as if to say “hoorayyy hiking!!” If only I felt that way when I put on my pack the day after a resupply.

In our constant fear of poison ivy, we both went through more hand washing and tecnu in order to put our contacts in. Thankfully we managed to have just enough water such that no one had to go back to the spring to collect more for the morning. I went through my foot prep and used the last of the tecnu packet on my hands after handling my gaiters.

The Rain started as soon as we put on our packs. We paused momentarily to get out ziplocks for our phones and made our way into the soggy day. There was a Climb out of camp. Of course. We walked through spacious woods with Little ground cover and Road noise.

We made our way Uphill talking about best parts of yesterday. Little did we know we were actually walking through the territory in which stronghold had been murdered. (We wouldn’t find out that information until a few days later when teatime told us).

After a little while of sweating and trudging uphill we passed the quarter of the way sign. These kinds of milestones always tug at the sadness I still feel about not being able to finish my 2017 hike in its originally intended format.

Not long after the sign, We came across a guy breaking up camp. We Made it to the site of a torn down shelter. We dropped our packs by the shelter steps, which looked like a set of bleachers without the shelter.

Oakland walked off to use the still standing privy right as a clap of thunder sounded two minutes later the skies opened up. I grabbed my bag and put it under a tree for slightly more coverage from the pouring rain. Oakland returned right as I was about to move her bag. I scurried off to also use the privy. As I stood there pulling up my shorts, I contemplated the prospects of hiding out in the Privy because it had a roof. We Decided to just keep walking rather than attempt to wait out the storm. We were Soaked within minutes as we made our way through Thunder and lightning. The flat, soft trail sadly turned into a sloshing mess because of the lack of rocks. We were Passed by the solo hiker but then we passed him again as he stood tucked under a small rhododendron tree on a hill.

The rain eventually tailed off leaving us clammy and wet but not actively soaked for too long. As we made our way up yet another steep hill, we could see misty mountain rops that weren’t quite visible enough for a picture but looked beautiful to our eyes. Oakland stopped to squeeze out her socks. Very sadly her waterproof altras were no match for the downpour and had taken on water. We had a few bites of a probar, looked at pictures from our Catsitters and kept walking.

Once we crested the hill, we had Nice easy footing for awhile. A little while later we stopped for a pee and so I could write a few notes while it was only drizzling. We also saw one of my orange friends, which I believe was Oakland’s first time seeing one in person:

Then came Gentle hills followed by a long descent through rhododendrons some of which were in bloom (today’s top picture). We took another Pee break and then rounded a corner Where Oakland spotted a deer way down the hillside. We Stopped to check the weather with a bit of phone signal. On our way down we ogled the occasional fungi.

Awhile later, we walked past a tent site and I spotted west Texas and ranger smoking on a log with the NOBO from this morning. I Haven’t seen them since hot springs. We Peeled off the trail to say hello but didn’t stick around to take our scheduled break because of their cigarette smoke. Instead we Walked a ways father and came to a campsite where we took a heavy snack break in the event that we got rained out of a lunch stop. Then, per AT rules, we went Up hill for little while after having just eaten. We stopped to Filter water and got passed by west Texas and ranger. Then we decided to listen to HP order of the Phoenix together, which is nerdy but fun to have the same thing playing at the same time.

We went Uphill for a little longer and then down long switchbacks. In the distance, I could see west Texas and ranger on a log with someone’s ground cloth draped over a tree and his shirt off rolling cigarettes looking classy as usual.

We Squelched our way through wide sweeping curves with enough mud to side several inches with each step. I Nearly fell a few times and our pace slowed to a crawl. We were Passed by west Texas and ranger separately. We eventually Came to a small opening with a view of a valley and a bank of clouds hanging over the mountain tops.

We Used our zseats to sit in the mud and ate another hefty hodgepodge of snacks (eg the rest of my Doritos, a dessert, half a bag of cashews and cheezit, and sesame covered cashews). As we snacked, I Saw a dark colored hummingbird land on a twig and sit there for about 4 minutes. Before moving on, We both took a quick pee break basically on trail because the poison ivy was back in full force. There were 3.3 miles To go with some soggy field walking in our near future. Just around the corner from our snack spot we came across a large tree with a crazy cable knit pattern in its trunk:

We eventually Walked through shoulder high weeds filled with poison ivy at our ankles. Then we crossed a small road and Field walked through switchbacks covered in cow patties and waist high scratchy hay.

at the top of the field, we went back into the woods through a cow fence. Shortly after that went Over a slatted wooden ladder that helped us cross a barbed wire fence.

1.6 miles to go, with the occasional drizzle and thunder rumbling nearby. We hoped to reach our hostel before getting pelted by another storm, but we still had too far to go to consider picking up the pace.

We wound through the woods a little longer and came to another slatted wooden ladder that dropped down in front of a wide creek. It looked more precarious than it felt. Here’s Oakland crossing it (picture taken through a ziplock bag because it was too clammy and time consuming to remove it):

Then we went Over bog boards through thick grass. We Heard a crashing sound and saw a flash of brown that turned out to be a large fawn bounding away from us. It must have been bedded in the grass. I had nightmare Visions of it getting spooked again and running into the barbed wire fence to our right. Thankfully when it did get spooked, it ran across the stream and up the opposite bank.

We crossed the creek and went up a narrow trail with a steep drop off to our right. A large blowdown Crossed the trail and we could see a wide curving stream way down the hillside with a cow loitering by its banks.

Then came a walk through a lumpy field as thunder clouds looked overhead. I felt Grateful to not have to think about poison ivy for a few minutes. There were pretty Views to our left and behind us with a carpet of storm clouds hanging overhead.

I Stopped to check mileage and we still had 0.3 miles to go. We Finally went back into the woods for a few minutes before walking parallel to the road and dropping down over a muddy patch to get to the intersection.

We Took a right and thought about walking on the proper side against traffic but there was a bigger shoulder on the right side of the road so we stayed there. Went about 100 yards up the road and came to a collection of small barn red buildings and a giant wooden cross sitting on the lawn. West Texas, ranger and munchies (the NOBO we saw much earlier in the day) sat on a deck with an older woman who turned out to be Bert, the hostel owner I’ve spoken to about 5 times.

They had all finished eating snacks and smoking. Bert got a phone call right as we were going to ask her to show us the lower bunkhouse. It Started to rain so we waited inside the main bunkhouse for her. She showed us to the smaller, separate bunk house which was dark but totally good for the two of us and we wanted the personal space. We Dropped our packs in the bunk room and went back up to the main building to get some food. West text and ranger ended up leaving eventually. It poured about an hour after they left. We Ate frozen breakfast sandwiches for a late lunch. Then we Showered in the bathhouse which has a gravity fed water system which meant a trickle of water pressure but there was an abundance of hot water. We picked out some stellar loaner clothing options (flannel pajama pants!) and Put on laundry. Then we went back to our bunkhouse and Pulled gear out to dry with box fan at our disposal. At some point in the late afternoon, a UPS truck arrived with a long box. My Poles arrived! Bert eventually brought our food boxes down. There were three of them because we ordered 5 days of food and HQ couldn’t stuff everything into two boxes.

Then came a long period of being Social media zombies before We had Camp Dinners in the main bunkhouse. We decided to Share our Nutella, s’mores and graham crackers with munchies who was the only occupants of the main building. Oakland kindly washed our dishes at the spigot outside because there isn’t any running water in either of the bunkhouses. Guess what that means? The only bathroom is a privy!

I did not realize that fact when I made a plan to take a zero day here. Oh well. It’s better than having to dig a hold. After dinner, we retrieved our cleaner clothes and Folded laundry in the bunkhouse.

Then we Got ready for bed, which entailed more privy visits, washing hands at the spigot and brushing our teeth on our little porch. The Sky was a beautiful cotton candy pink on my way back down to the bunkhouse.

We texted a bit with our families and turned the Lights out at hiker midnight. I’m finishing this to the hum of the box fan and the squeak of Oakland shifting in her bunk.

Mile 547.4 to mile 558.3(10.9)

Checklist total miles: 567.1

Oakland total miles: 87.4

Creature feature: cows! Brown thrashers, red wing blackbirds, the fawn, many red spotted newts! the deer down in the woods.

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