Not Broken, Just Wet: Learning to Love Again After the Rain
Spoiler alert: I do not quit.
We were in the rain for a week. But I am not going to give up, I am not going to quit this hike because things got hard and difficult. NO SIR. No. Not even after the immense, consecutive, damp bologna that I experienced this week. If anything, the endless rain has wholly made it more difficult for me to quit because I am now under the impression that I am a bad ass, awesome, equal-parts-smart-and-stupid, strong, broken-yet-unbreakable OUTDOOR WOMAN HIKER. NOTHING CAN STOP ME.
Rain Brings The Breakdown(s)
Contrary to my belief, I am not unbreakable. No, unfortunately sometimes, no matter how positive you are, you will find yourself stopping in the middle of the trail tearing your backpack off and angrily flinging your trekking poles down so hard they sound like they may shatter while screaming about how you have to pee and isn’t that so stupid, isn’t the whole world so STUPID EVERYTHING IS SO STUPID.
No matter how hard you try to enjoy the rain
This was the most outlandish of my three “mental breakdowns” during this past week of nonstop rain/overcast. The other two were definitely more hilarious and perhaps a bit more concerning, going along something like this:
Pineapple: Alright come on, you’re gonna be ok, let’s get going.
Me: When I close my eyes all I see is trees.
Pineapple: Haha, ok, we ARE in the woods.
Me: They’re everywhere. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!
The rest was me breaking off into mad, unending laughter.
“Let’s Just Hike Into Damascus,”
Pineapple said on April 24th. We had been hiking slowly. We got a late start. How late? Oh, nothing too bad, just 1pm.
… Look, hey, c’mon. The night before was SO hard. We got so little sleep, we were soaking wet and freezing. Hence why we were pushed to thinking outlandish thoughts.
“Yeah,” I said, slowly getting a little more pep in my step. That is to say I wasn’t literally dragging my soaking wet feet anymore. “Yeah, you know what? We should. That’s, let’s do it.”
And so we decided, at 3:30pm, to keep hiking the remaining 30 miles into Damascus, VA.
This is how we felt after deciding to do it. The prospect of being in Damascus, finding a warm place with warm pizza out of the rain and misery lit a fire within our souls.
Why. Why would you ever go to do that?
Valid question. Some may say we were stupid. “Stupid” is such a subjective word. Nay, friend. We were not stupid. We were desperate. We were about to attempt an obviously foolish feat. During our first dinner/coffee break, Cashew tried to be the voice of reason. “You know, I think it’s going to rain a lot tonight.” Bless you, and thank you Cashew. But we must go. We had to go. There was no other option for us.
How would we get by? Easy.
- Youthful ambition
- Extreme and utter disdain for the TERRIBLE GOD DAMN WEATHER
- Steady pace
It’s really not more complicated than that. We had had enough. We were done with the weather, the wet, the sleeplessness, the cold, the food we had. We wanted out, and Damascus was a shining beacon of hope and glory. And we could get there soon, if we hiked all night.
The Collapse of a Grand Plan
Of course we didn’t make it all the way. We didn’t fail, we didn’t break. We just got really tired. And a migraine.
“Wayne. Where’s the campsite.” Just ahead just ahead we’re going to make it, this is happening we’re good let’s go it’s fine! It was really exhausting to be positive at 11:30pm after a long long long day, and an even longer week.
The past couple days have been cloudy. The clouds absolutely ruin the epic views. It’s a bummer. But they also ruin your view of the forest. Yeah, during the day, you can’t see more than 30ft ahead of you sometimes.
In the darkness, it’s like, 10 times worse. A night hike in the fog is like being in a horrifying video game with bad graphics. I found comfort in repeating to myself, “Thank god I never did that Slenderman thing when I was a kid.” The key to success for me was fake it ’til ya make it. I told myself I was excited and somehow that worked.
In reality? Terrified. I was terrified. I couldn’t see beyond the dimly lit 5 foot bubble of fog in front of my headlamp. Everything was wet and cold and drifting. I was effectively in a box. At US 421, we lost the trail. But right after that the stars came out for about 5 minutes! And then…clouds. Everywhere. We could barely see the campsite we ended up stumbling into.
You Shall Not Pass
Sometimes I really did think the Trail wanted us to stop and turn around. “Don’t make this easy for me, Trail!” Pineapple shouted. “I would HATE THAT!”
Upon reaching Laurel Falls, we realized we had perhaps made a mistake in setting out that day. The water was not only raging, it was escaping it’s river bed. That entire day we experienced massive puddles mid-trail. In fact, the water was so high by the river that it got closed off later in the week!
Talk about massive hydration.
“It’ll be fine,” we said. “Keep hiking,” we said. “We’ll get to Vandeventer Shelter and stay there,” we said.
Wrong. WRONG WRONG WRONG. Ok, maybe I’m being dramatic. It WAS fine. We ARE ok. But when we rolled up to the shelter at 7pm, it was (obviously) full of people squished in. The disheartening part? There was no where to camp.
That’s right! Oh yeah. Full shelter, pouring rain (it had been pouring literally non stop all day) and a soggy god damn camp ground. Everything was a puddle.
“Wait,” said a beautiful woman from her sleeping bag, “I think there’s a camp ground half way down the water path a little way back. It should be on the leeward side of the mountain.” And praise glory be she was right!
It Wasn’t All So Bad
The last day that my shoes were dry (6 days ago – that’s right my boots were wet for 6 days straight) we experienced my favorite trail magic so far. I present to you
the dopest crew of humans on this side of Tennessee and beyond! These people, OH my gosh! Not only did they give me 3 extra slices of cheese on my bacon onion cheese burger, they also gave me a barrel of laughs and happiness and hope. They showed the power of friendship, the long lasting bonds that are created from hiking the AT.
Plus, I still have dreams about that burger.
Land ho! Damascus Saves the Day!
And now here we are, me and Pineapple, in the grand land named Damascus, VA. After a beautiful burrito and a moment to think, we realized that holy crap, this past week was incredibly shitty.
But we made it. We made it through ENDLESS RAIN, lost sleep, wet sleeping bags, cold mornings/afternoons/nights, mental breakdowns, stupid hills, mud mud mud, and flooded trail and campsites.
I’m not saying we’re invincible.
I’m just saying we’re alive, and it feels pretty awesome to be existing right now.
Until next time, xo, Lil Wayne
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