Day 35: Big Butt and Howling Winds

Howling Winds

The good news is, it didn’t rain in the night. The bad news is, the wind was howling like a train. And that was with my earplugs in. It actually wasn’t that bad. I’d occasionally wake up to hear the wind and would take my earplugs out and really understand how wind has shaped our world. At least it wasn’t blowing directly into the shelter.

Morning Plans

I slept really well and actually woke up feeling well rested. I got up before 7:00 when I felt Fine Young Buck move around. Breakfast was a short affair. I’m starting to hate the spiced oatmeal. Apples and cinnamon oatmeal anyday. I had a packet of baby food too. A hiker named Team Player offered to take our trash and I was more than happy to give him mine.

Team Player was also stating that there would be thunderstorms between noon and four. I did not like the sound of that. At all. No thank you. I left the shelter a few minutes after 8:00 and hiked like my ass was on fire. I planned on fourteen miles and I wanted to pass the balds and exposed ridgelines before there was any chance of lightning.

No Music

The wind was still very strong. There were a few new looking downed trees on trail and I kept my eyes on the swaying trees as much as I was eyeing the trail. Today was going to be a no music day.

If it was a clear, nice day, there would have been tons of awesome views along the trail. Unfortunately, it was foggy, rainy, and windy. I got to the intersection of the Appalachian Trail going up to Howard’s Rock and the Bad Weather Bypass and saw Sweeper. We greeted each other and he said Fine Young Buck was up ahead on the bypass. I wish I could have done the exposed ridgeline, but safety is my priority. I speeded down the bypass.

300 Miles!

I passed Fine Young Buck and trotted on. I was on a mission. Lunch. Specifically, lunch at Jerry’s Cabin Shelter. After a mile of following blue blazes, I felt a sense of relief when I saw white ones in the distance.

On the way to Jerry’s Cabin Shelter, I had to stop and take a picture of a very obvious tree marker. I went ten feet off trail and met up with Fine Young Buck as he watched me fight the thorny vines back to the trail. “I didn’t see it on the bypass trail, but we’re past the 300 mile marker,” I said. I held out my hand for a fist bump. We bumped hands and Fine Young Buck said, “Actually, this deserves a hug.”

A very distinct tree marker.

Relics of the Past and Lunch

We continued on and I stopped to take photos. This section of trail has relics of the past that I desperately want to know the history of. There were old, rusty car parts, tires, metal signs, and signs of old road and trail use. I’ve noticed this before while on trail, but today seemed like there was a lot more. The trail after the bypass was an old road that we followed all the way to Jerry’s Cabin Shelter.

An old sign alerting people that this section of trail is closed to horse, car, and bike.

I set my things down and ripped into my food bag. Fine Young Buck was behind me and Sweeper showed up a few minutes later. We got a more accurate weather report and figured we had until 5:00 to avoid the thunderstorms. I went to refill my water and Fine Young Buck and Sweeper continued on.

The Oncoming Storm

By the time I was putting on my pack, the wind picked up and the rain that had stopped started up again. Lovely. This next part was the last major uphill hike of the day. I hiked on and the wind was howling. It was terrifying. The wind would push me left and right and all I could imagine was a tree falling and striking me dead. I contemplated turning around, but I didn’t. I kept close watch of the viciously swaying trees and kept my ears open for any creaking or groaning. I was all adrenaline by that point. I was so close to the top.

“I Ate Shit on Big Butt”

The moment I crossed onto the other side of the hill, the wind stopped and everything was peaceful. I was finally able to relax. I caught up with Fine Young Buck at the Big Butt Bypass (yes, the mountain was named Big Butt) and he said, “I conquered Butt Mountain on the PCT, and now, I have conquered Big Butt.” I’m sure Big Butt was nice, but it was foggy.

I continued on and was less than half a mile from the top on the descent when I felt one foot give way to the slippery mud. My ankle twisted a weird way and I had a millisecond to decide if I was to try and hold myself up or fall to prevent ankle injury. Falling it was. I willing forced my other leg foward. And ate it. I sat in the mud and gave a chuckle. I guess I need to wash my clothes now. I got up and decided that now was a good time to put on some Bodyglide for my chafing.

Fine Young Buck caught up and I stated, “I have officially joined the ‘ate shit’ club.” I ate shit on Big Butt. I took the descent slower. I almost slipped twice more. By that point, I didn’t care. I was covered in mud. The Appalachian Trail sucks when the entire trail becomes one big slip n’ slide.

Flint Mountain Shelter

I had three more miles to the shelter and it couldn’t come sooner. I still wasn’t listening to music because the wind was still blowing. I was bored. And my feet hurt.

The shelter did come though and just in time too. The moment I showed up, it started to rain again. By the time Fine Young Buck made it, it began pouring. Works for me. I went to collect water and let the rain wash off my muddy clothes. My legs were covered.

Repeating Meals

I came back, set up my stuff, and changed into my camp clothes. Once I was settled, I began making dinner. It was mashed potatoes and chicken again. It’s so good, though. Sweeper called my name and he shook his dehydrated bag of chicken and dumplings. He has had that meal for at least five days now. It’s been a source of laughter.

Bears Are Bears

I listened to the other shelter people and wasn’t loving the conversation. It switched between sports talk, venting about how they couldn’t continue due to the possible rain, and openly acknowledging that they either slept with their food or didn’t put all their smellies in their food bag. I said that they really shouldn’t be doing that, but I was dismissed with one guy saying, “You’re just used to the bears in Montana.” I was ready to fight. I won’t be the one who wakes up to hearing my tent being ripped open because I was using my food bag as a pillow. I didn’t converse with any of them for the remainder of the night.

“My First Instinct is to Kill”

Everyone was in the shelter by 6:00. I was in the midst of blogging when I felt something crawl on my forearm. I looked and saw a black something on me and I immediately slammed my arm into the ground. Twice. Fine Young Buck, who was next to me, jerked his head up and looked at me in concern. “Sorry, something was crawling on me.” “I thought something bad happened. Or was hearing a bear under the shelter.” I laughed. “No, it was probably an ant. I can’t tell anymore though. It’s dead.” He sighed and said, “Now I have to clean my underwear. I’m sure I shat myself in fright.” I cackle and say, “Obviously, my first instinct is to kill.” We both laugh.

Lightning and Thunder

We fell silent and I continued to blog about the day. In the distance, I could hear the rumble of thunder. I love the sound. It makes me feel alive. Lightning does too, but in a ‘scared for my life’ kind of way. I would hear another rumble, this time closer. After hearing it grow louder and louder, I announced, “I think it may be time to go pee.” I did and once I got back in the shelter, it started to rain. And rain. It got heavier and heavier. The wind was coming. You could hear it plow through the valley to reach us. The trees bent and I saw a branch break off and tumble to the ground. The thunder clapped loudly and the outside disappeared as everything grew white. Meanwhile, most everyone in the shelter was either on their phones or trying to go to bed. As the noise picked up outside, we all sat up and watched as the storm passed. I was very thankful I was in a shelter.

The storm died down and Fine Young Buck went to go pee. As he came back in. I noticed how he was sitting on my sleeping pad to take off his shoes and to crawl to his bed. I asked, “What will you do once my feet are there?” “I’ll just crawl over you.” “Careful,” I warned, before continuing. “I may kick.” He barked out a laugh and said, “I would expect nothing else. Especially if you have a tendency to kill first.” I laughed. “Just protect your face when you do.”

The day ended as I listened to the rain come and go. It was a good day. We did fourteen miles and made it to the shelter before 3:30. It was a success if you ask me.

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Comments 1

  • Richard : Apr 26th

    I am enjoying your posts. Sounds like you have had a lot of weather. Springtime in the Smokies. I love a good thunderstorm when I am snug and safe.


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