Mile 380.3—Bush camp [with Fern from New Zealand] — 14.3 milesThursday, April 18
End of month 1:
380.3 + 8 = 388.3 / 4 = 97.075 mpw
Rough day. Didn’t think I’d get up Roan.
The wind is furious. Snow and rain coming…
Mile 392.2, tenting at Doll Flats — 11.9 miles
Friday, April 19
Today was, in a word, harrowing. Stop reading if you don’t want to be harrowed.
So, I woke up and it was raining. The wind was crazy. I packed up in the rain and crazy wind. Great. So far, so good. There was a spotless outhouse at the parking lot a 10th of a mile away. Yay for pristine poops! Alas, that was the highlight of the day.
The wind was furious. The rain was relentless, all day long. And the cold fog meant visibility was about 10 feet. If that. And today was the day to go over the giant balds—-high-altitude grassy-topped mountains with no cover.
The trail was a river. I mean the entire trail, all day long. The depth ran from 2 to 3 inches to mid calf. There was no getting around it; you had to just bite the bullet and slog through it. The mud underneath with slick and treacherous and sloppy. I skied on my trailrunnerd, and slip-slid, and fell once. That part was OK, though. The harrowing part came later, after Overmountain barn shelter.
I passed Overmountain and started to climb up Little Hump bald—-the first of the last two big balds that were on the menu. So I started the rainy foggy slog up Little Hump and… it started lightning. It actually had been lightning a little bit before that, but I thought I’d gotten out of range. So I stood there in the pouring rain for a couple of minutes, wondering: Do I risk it and keep going, do I wait here under this lonely little tree, where do I go back to Overmountain Shelter and try to wait it out? (Being on a high bald in a thunderstorm isn’t brilliant.)
I grimaced and went back to Overmountain. Let me tell you how much through hikers like to backtrack! Bonus miles today.
So, I waited. Other hikers started to show up, the hikers who had stayed at Roan High Knob Shelter last night. They’d done 8 miles and decided that they were going to stop at noon. Me, though, when the lightning stopped at about 1 o’clock, I decided to go ahead and try to finish the humps.
The lightning issue was fine. There wasn’t any. With there was was wind—-wind that was so fierce it literally picked me up off my feet and threw me off the trail twice. It was one step at a time. Sometimes it knocked me over and I had to crawl for a couple of feet. It was absolutely harrowing. What trail there was was a rushing river. And zero visibility.
But you know, the only way past it is through it. I kept singing that kids’ song about the elephants playing on the spiderweb, and kept my weight low, and inched along, and eventually the mountain ended.
I only made it a few more miles. I’m camped in my tent and the wind is still howling, and I hope the tent holds up! It should. It’s anchored by about 10 pounds of soaking wet gear and clothes,
I might take a short day tomorrow and stay overnight in a hostel. I have to resupply anyway. And tomorrow’s supposed to be like today, but with snow.
Oh! I’ve officially left North Carolina for good! It’s all Tennessee now, until Virginia.