10 Glorious Tips for Hiking in the Rain
10 Glorious Tips for Hiking in the Rain
I started my thru-hike this week on Monday. The forecast said rain all week, but I was determined to start my hike, knowing that eventually I would need to deal with rain. Let it be known- this was a rough week, but in the process, I learned some wonderful tips that I would love to pass on with everyone. Enjoy!
- Make sure you get as much water in your tent or hammock as possible so you can add at least 10 lbs to your base weight. This is vital for building strong muscles and bones.
- Make sure you wait to poop in the woods until it’s absolutely pouring rain. This way you can wash your buttock at the same time. Efficiency is key.
- Make sure you hit all the mountain tops during the foggiest parts of the day. Mystery builds character.
- Try to walk directly in the shin-deep mud as long as possible. Perhaps try tackling muddy hills slip and slide style. This is a cheap and effective way of replicating that detox clay bath that you hear your great aunt always going on about. Remember to send some of this mud to your aunt as well.
- While slip and sliding in the mud, make sure to “accidently” get plenty of mud in your mouth. People eat mud and clay as a detox protocol. You’ve got to do something to balance out those snickers.
- If tenting, try to tent directly in the puddles so throughout the night your body heat can warm the puddle into a mini hot spring. Hikers love hot springs.
- If hammock tenting, make sure to place your hammock directly into the wind so you can get rocked like a baby all night long, constantly being sprayed with a cold mist. People pay lots of money to have humidifiers in their rooms. Let Mother Nature take care of you on this one.
- Make sure your feet stay wet all day and night. Think of it as a permanent moisturizer to balance out the giant callouses growing on your feet. This won’t be hard, don’t worry.
- While previously mentioned callouses are growing, make sure to wear shoes a size and half too small to keep said callouses under control. Common side effects of this treatment include debilitating blisters and hot tears of pain and misery. Please use hot tears to warm up your numb fingers- again, efficiency is key.
- While packing up camp in the morning, make sure you save the best part for last. Putting on your wet hiking clothes from the day before is a refreshing and vitalizing experience. Your clothes will probably never dry… ever… so don’t worry, you’ll never be denied this glorious feeling.
I love hiking, but I will admit, this week of hiking in the rain was truly a test for me. You know what saved me from breaking down and throwing in the towel? People. Good people and strangers are the best antidote to cold, rain and blisters.
I started my hike on Monday at Springer Mountain. As I headed up, I was excited about beginning my hike, but nervous about the forecast of terrible storms all week. My friend who dropped me off had offered to keep me a few extra days until the rain passed, but I was determined to start. As my rain jacket (which was supposed to be top notch) became slowly saturated during my climb, I bumped into another single woman hiking the trail named Kelly. Together we laughed and climbed our way up and then down Springer, until suddenly 13 miles and the daylight had passed us by. As the evening came on, so did gales of wind and we quickly set up camp. Quickly is a bit of a lie because although I imagined setting up a hammock tent to be a quick experience, doing so in gales of wind and rain made the process feel like a century. Shaking, I changed into my dry camp clothes (and let’s be clear, after a day of rain, “dry” is more of a relative term). Kelly and I laughed together at the volume of rain and at our own stupidity for setting up right at the edge of a mountain. All night long we were berated with strong wind, literally rocking me in my hammock most of the night. This would be a pleasant experience if I didn’t feel like I was in the splash zone of a water park the entire time. Why is it that you always have to pee just as it starts raining harder?
After a night of little sleep, I woke up and stepped out of my hammock with massive blisters on my feet. Now, I had used these boots for many hikes before with little problem, but because of the rain and the amount of weight added to my pack by the rain, my feet decided to swell up like balloons. We slowly packed up, trying our best to avoid getting soaked, eventually biting the bullet, putting on our wet hiking clothes from the day before. I had zero appetite and when I did try to eat, I felt sick. Instead, Kelly and I drank tea. Eventually we were on our way again, but this time, it was raining harder, our packs were heavier from our soaked shelters, and I had sausage feet.
By afternoon, the sun came out and I stopped at Woody Gap where Kelly had to leave the trail. She had an event to go to, but would start up again in a couple of days. I secretly wished I could go with Kelly to get out of the rain coming up for the rest of the week, but because the sun was out, I felt I could continue. I started to dry my gear when I met Fo, a Vietnamese man from Maine. Fo and I put out our hammock tents and Fo gave me tips for blisters. Unfortunately, I already knew and tried all of his tips and it was evident my sausage feet were going to deny any results from attempted treatment. But, because it was dry, I decided to wobble the next few miles to Lance Creek where I walked through the campsite of weary hikers. It was my first night of going into camp by myself and decided on a spot next to two very kind looking guys. As I approached they both smiled at me in the, we-aren’t-creepy-or-going-to-molest-you kind of way, so I figured that was good enough. I greeted them by saying, “I have about 7 blisters and I think I’m dying. Can I camp here?”
Turns out, both of these guys, Brian and Dan, are absolute sweethearts with just about as much camping and backpacking experience as me (that is, zero), and so we had a lot to laugh at (Latest news and edit, I just found out Dan has lots of backpacking experience… who knew?!) Dan and I popped our blisters together (his father is a podiatrist and talked us through the process). When I poked my blister with a sterilized needle, my blisters squirted out fluids like a geyser, hitting targets a good five feet away. Each blister respectively shot out with an impressive range. Dan then began calling me, Squirt. Brian picked it up. I repeatedly told them I did not want my trail name to be Squirt, but they continued. They began introducing me to the other men that came to visit the campsite and Squirt began to spread like wildfire. I put up my white flag and began responding to it… oops.
We collectively decided to hike Blood Mountain together the next day and split a cabin the following evening to try and get out of the rain. It rained again, but it was warm out, and I slept like a baby that night knowing I would be able to get out of the rain eventually. I woke up that morning, feeling like I was ready to finally have my first bowel movement in three days. After asking around, this is about average for thru hikers. It’s a strange phenomenon that no one ever talks about but happens to almost everyone. I ventured into the woods and took my squat position, but unfortunately it started down pouring and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I stood up and began walking back to camp, smelling something as I walked. I looked down at my camp shoe and realized in horror- I had poop all over the bottom of my shoe. Wet, smelly, backpacker’s poop. How ironic. I would have been happier if it were mine because then in would have meant that I had pooped. But no, I had to spend my morning cleaning the poop I would never have off of my new fake crocs.
After hiking Blood, we met a young man named Snoopy. Snoopy was sitting in the shelter, eating raw Ramen noodles from the bag (because, let’s be clear, that’s the coolest way to do it). Snoopy was quiet at first but he tagged along, eventually opening up when somehow the topic of musicals came up. I love musicals and have always been apart of them growing up, and so has Snoopy. Dan also happened to have a history of listening to musical soundtracks on family road trips, so together, we sang our way down the mountain. This is good because my feet hurt so bad by this point I’m pretty sure I would have cried my way down without them. We hobbled into Neel Gap, going into the mountain outfitter store where Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” came on. Instinctively, I dropped my stuff and began dancing to the amusement of the store clerks. They immediately offered to help me with my feet too because apparently I looked like I was walking on coals. I took off my wet Oboz and began to take some of the wet tape off of my blisters, in an effort to not get the store shoes wet. While taking off the tape, however, I also took the layer of skin above my blisters off and my toes began oozing. In horror, I looked at my alien toes, telling the clerk that I would need to wash and dress my feet before I ruined their shoes! The boys and I rented a cabin at Blood Mountain Cabins, putting all of our clothes in a bag to be washed. I showered and finally… well… let’s just say I met the three day average… and went back to the store in a towel skirt and down jacket, hoping to start a new fashion. I tried on many pairs of shoes but my feet had swollen to epic proportions and nothing fit. The clerks gave me Epsom salts and that night I painfully soaked my raw feet while playing “Heads Up” with the boys. I laughed and forgot all about my feet and despite the rain, felt fantastic.
The next morning we decided to meet up at Low Gap, about 11 miles away. I was going to try on more shoes, and would catch up with them later. While trying on about 25 pairs of shoes (eventually desperately trying on men’s varieties as well) the store clerk, Matt told me about his upcoming PCT hike. God bless the patience of that man as I said with each pair of shoes he handed me, “It just doesn’t feel right”. Eventually, I put on a pair of keens and I heard the cherubs of heaven sing. It was the pair. Matt helped me bandage of my feet and then suggested I do a shake down. This may sound like a provocative dance move, but it is really just when you go through a pack and get ride of gear you don’t absolutely need in an effort to lighten your load. I had already packed light, but it was just fun to see Matt’s reaction to my Taser. We tried it out in the store, it’s loud. Head’s up.
Finally, around 2:00, I left the store with a lighter pack, better shoes, Matt’s number for emergencies, a new brilliant pick up line from Matt, and a determination to hike the next 11 miles as fast I could. I wanted to camp the night with the boys again, especially because of the storms coming up. I ran through the mountains, not seeing a soul until I reached camp and was greeted at 7:30 by Boogie, a man built for hiking. He said there were some guys looking for a girl named Squirt and pointed me their way. Brian and Snoopy helped me set up camp as I shook violently, going numb in the fingers and legs. They helped me bundle up and we all sat in Brian’s tent so the heat could warm me up. Eventually I did and went to my hammock where I shook all night long. What a work out it is to stay warm. Remember to always get the warmest underquilt possible! I’ll be paying for it the next few weeks!
The gang and I decided to head out, Dan and I bringing up the rear. Again, it rained all day and we ended up being convinced by Boogie and his hiking partner, Whoopie, to camp up at the Cheese Factory Site (soon renamed by me as the Cheese Cake Factory). We powered through a 13 mile day, and my feet felt better. I thought I was moving fast, and then Whoopie and Boogie would spring past. I’d see them again up the trail as they were resting, only to have them pass me by in the next few minutes. We never found the Cheese Cake Factory, but we set up camp in the rain, reminiscing the time when one of the boys from Low Gap set his belly button lint on fire in an attempt to get our campfire going. Boogie revealed that he also had a bit of a spiritual connection to the universe and we shared stories and passions relating to our efforts to better connect and nourish our spirits. We all shared an Epic Lamb bar and decided that it was the most delicious and gourmet food option for backpacking. Boogie vowed to eat one every mile of the hundred mile wilderness in Maine. In the cold rain, we decided to push it the next day to get to Hiawassee, Georgia, where we all would split a room and stay warm for the upcoming monsoon. Snoopy woke us all up at 6 am and we began a long hike, but the sun was out and it was glorious. We could see the city lights far off in the distance as the sun rose and we climbed Tray Mountain. “Keep Breathing” by Ingrid Michelson came on and I cried as I headed up the mountain. It was powerful. A little dramatic, perhaps.
Throughout the day I dreamed of coconut milk ice cream and an Epsom salt bath. When I got to the top of Kelly Knob (a hard hike after not sleeping for 3 days), I met some day hikers that smelled so good. They offered me a ride into Haiwasse, which I gratefully accepted and I began running down the mountain to catch up with my buddies and wait at the bottom for my ride. I didn’t see animals but the day hikers saw two baby bears, a momma cub and a giant black snake. In my blur of a hike down the mountain, I missed all of these and let’s be honest, I’m happy I did. As we pulled out, I saw Fo emerging from the mountains and yelled out from the truck, “Foooooooooo!!!” as we pulled away.
Last night I stayed in town at a hotel with my new family. The hotel room smelled like the mildew of our backpacks mixed with the enchanting smell of 5 mountain men and 1 mountain woman. It’s an experience you can replicate by going into a hockey locker room. Go ahead. Try it out. I went into town and found coconut milk ice cream and KOBUCHA! While the guys drank their beers, I sipped by ginger delight and we laughed about our alien feet and the rain. We threw away every last possible random item from our backpacks to lighten our loads where Whoopie revealed he had been carrying a football and MOUSTACHE WAX the past 80 miles.
I’m so grateful for my life, my hike, my friends and the kindness of this universe.
-Julieann Hartley, aka, Squirt
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WOW!!! I guess it is good to pay your dues early. You should be in for more sunny days than rainy ones. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, looking forward to many more.
Go Jules! So excited to read your adventures! You are in my thoughts
Glad to see that you’re ok, hope you see sunny days ahead, be looking forward to your next post.
You go girl! I’m so happy it’s already been an amazing and seemingly life-changing experience for you! Stay warm out there!
Epic bars are…well…EPIC! Oh my!
One of my favorite post I have read. It was very entertaining! Praying for better weather for you.