Day 35 – I Thought This Storm Would Kill Me

Day 35

Start: Walnut Mountain Shelter

End: Hot Springs, NC

Miles Hiked: 13.5

Miles on AT: 275.5


Last night was absolutely crazy! Before going to bed, I had been concerned that it might be a windy night, and, indeed, it was! Not only that, there was a severe – severe – thunderstorm that passed directly over us.

It all started just after midnight, when we were awoken by the wind shaking and whipping our tent about. It was pouring. Suddenly, a white light flashed and illuminated the tent around us – lightning. Over the next few minutes, the wind and rain got increasingly fierce, with thunder sounding and lightning flashing every one or two minutes. Our tent kept flapping, its dance getting more frantic as time passed. The Janitor and I laid their, hoping it would end but knowing that it would only get more intense.

Suddenly, a huge gust of wind hit our tent, dislodging two of our tent stakes and inviting water to come rushing into our previously dry space. The Janitor and I immediately jumped into action – he held the trekking pole that had fallen down and I held the corner of the tent so that more water wouldn’t come in. After a few minutes, the sleeves of my puffy were wet, the floor of the tent held a thin layer of water, and the storm was no calmer. 

We were holding things together, but I was getting scared. I felt like I was on the ocean in a dinghy in the middle of a seastorm. What was going to come next? When would the wind and rain die down? Every few seconds, our eyes flashed with the light of Mother Nature’s fury. I tried not to imagine limbs breaking above us, but instead focused on the sound of thunder moving further and further away from us. 

The Janitor and I stayed in our positions for the next 30 minutes or so while the worst of the storm raged above us. Little by little, as the space between lightning and thunder got wider, the rain started to lighten. The wind calmed a bit, and we were no longer holding on for dear life. The worst of it was past us.

It was still raining heavily when the Janitor got out to fix our tent stakes. No branches fell on us, thank goodness. We spent some time cleaning up the worst of the water (serendipitously, I had brought a Shamwow-like towel with us for the first time) and trying to calm our adrenaline-filled nervous systems before we got back in our (mostly) dry quilts and salvaged what we could of our night’s sleep.

When we awoke in the morning, it was still raining. After looking at the radar, it was apparent that it would probably continue, so we resigned ourselves to packing up in the rain. After that wet affair, we made our way to the shelter to see how the other hikers fared. 

There were 3 hikers in the shelter and a few tents still up around us. One woman had made a mad dash in the middle of the storm to seek refuge in the shelter. Apparently her tent had collapsed and the wind had wrapped her in a water-logged mess. She’d packed up all of her things and sprinted to the shelter where she was at least dry. One woman had had a small branch fall on one of her tent guylines, but luckily it hadn’t done any damage. The people who had slept in the shelter had gotten a little wet from the sideways rain, but that was about it.

The Janitor and I were just happy to be out of the rain and alive. We were actually really impressed with how well our tent held up through the storm. It was only user-error that caused the two guylines to become dislodged. Outside of that, our tent had kept us dry and held up well.

We took our time in the morning and left around 10am, just when the rain stopped. Miraculously, the sun started to come out a bit. It was going to be a nice day after all of the night time drama we had endured.

The rest of our day passed uneventfully. We were headed down into Hot Springs that day, so after our first climb, downhill was the name of the game. Eventually we made it to town and our first stop was the taco spot. Once I’d placed my order, I immediately took my shoes and socks off and dried my feet in the now-shining sun. 

Once glance at the soles of my feet filled me with alarm. It looked like small holes were forming in the bottoms of my feet. A quick Google search revealed I had the beginnings of pitted keratolysis. Don’t look this up if you’re squeamish; I was shocked and disgusted when I saw the Google image results. Luckily mine is not nearly as bad as those cases, but I still wanted to prevent it from getting worse.

Back at our place, I gave my feet the royal treatment – foot soak, exfoliation, you name it. The main key to getting rid of pitted keratolysis is keeping my feet dry. It happens as a result of the overgrowth of normally-occurring bacteria due to wet conditions. More socks will be on my list of things to pick up at the gear store before I leave town tomorrow,


And that’s day 35.


Follow my journey on instagram (@jenbrownhikes) for more updates!


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Comments 2

  • Brian Crabtree : May 21st

    Jen, I’m enjoying following your journey. I’m a pharmacy professor and not an expert, but not all pitting on the soles is pitting keratolysis. A foul odor and itching are characteristic signs. Good foot hygiene and clean socks are great, but keeping your feet clean and dry on the trail will be hard. You might also require a prescription antibiotic cream, so a visit to an urgent care clinic in a trail town might be a good idea if the problem persists. Best wishes!

    • Jen Brown : May 27th

      Oh, that’s good to know! Luckily it’s not getting worse and doesn’t smell, so hopefully I’m in the clear.


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