Day 51: More Rain
In Arizona we celebrate the rain. It’s an event. Parents will call their children outside to look at it. People take pictures of it and post them online. People have no idea how to drive in it, and it brings traffic to a standstill, but we sure appreciate it. But only because it rarely rains twice in a month.
I’m starting to get the feeling that rain is a little less special along the AT. And this has been a dry year, according to the locals.
Today’s forecast called for 0.1 inch of rain, the same as yesterday and equally as wrong. The rain began right as I started hiking, just like yesterday. I already had my rain jacket on but had skipped my rain hat this morning, so I put my hood up and started climbing. And bonked my head on tree trunks leaning low over the trail. Twice. I may have mentioned something nasty about trail maintenance. More than twice.
If I hate something worse than bumping my head, I can’t recall what that might be at the moment. If I go to hell, I know it will have plenty of low ceilings, open cupboard doors, and tree branches over trails. Someday, someone will invent a hood that doesn’t hang too low over my face and obscure my peripheral vision, but that day has not yet come.
Maybe that same person will invent a rain jacket that actually keeps the rain out AND is breathable enough so that you don’t get twice as wet from sweat as you would have from the rain. Mine does the former, but not the latter, so it was off and stowed in my backpack after five minutes of climbing. If I’m gonna be wet, I might as well hang on to my electrolytes.
The 1,300-foot climb up from Big Stony Creek was steep but manageable, but the ridge walk from there to Mountain Lake Road was rocky, steppy, muddy, rugged, narrow, and overgrown. I spent most of the four miles carefully watching my feet to avoid tripping or slipping on wet rocks and roots.
In the middle of all that, I rounded a bend and saw brand new motocross style motorcycle lying on its side across the trail. I’d seen a set of very recent tire tracks heading south during my climb. I couldn’t imagine trying to ride this section. I could barely walk it without falling. And I had trekking poles to save me.
I didn’t see any evidence of a crash. The bike had no dents or scrapes. The tires were inflated. I saw no blood or skin. The rider had left their helmet strapped to the handlebar and, of course, a pile of trash. Typical motorhead. They’d also left skid marks, crushed vegetation, and gouges from spinning out all along the trail to the Mountain Lake Road crossing where they’d gotten on the AT.
I posted a picture of it on the Facebook AT 2023 page. Theories ranged from a stolen joy ride to poor souls forced to ride the AT due to some emergency. And someone who felt I needed to know that section of trail wouldn’t be hard to ride. Hmm, that fact that the bike was abandoned might be evidence that it was, not to mention the difficulty I had walking it. You gotta love the comments section on public Facebook posts.
I crossed paths with Supersoaker (he carries no stove) shortly after that and we puzzled through the motorcycle mystery while we walked. We parted company after we stopped for lunch at the War Spur Shelter, just before the last climb of the day, a 1,700-foot (650 ft/mi) ascent that looked like a beast on the map but actually wasn’t that tough.
Trail magic helped soften the climb. At the two-thirds point, a guy parked along VA 601, a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, had a cooler of ice-cold Yuenglings and Cokes, with boxes of chips and candy bars. He looked kind of lonely, so I took pity on him and broke my rule of never stopping during a climb. I can be nice that way.
I forgot to ask his name, but we’ll call him Overalls. Overalls told me about bird rescue, migratory raptor counts, and tick prevention, and I helped him with his inventory. As he spoke, he’d get a slightly distant look whenever we heard a bird. I asked, and he said he’d counted 28 species by ear while he’d parked there. Impressive.
I’d seen only Supersoaker during my hike today, so I asked Overalls if he’d been busy. He said that seven hikers had just left before I arrived, but that no one had mentioned the abandoned motorcycle. He also told me he’d seen “Handmade” a few days ago.
Handmade built his own wood-(and deer antler) framed backpack and carried wooden trekking poles. He had also hiked barefoot from Springer, averaging 12 miles a day. I’m looking forward to catching that guy to see for myself.
Supersoaker arrived just then to take the next shift at the trail magic, so I moved on and finished the climb, scurrying to finish before the rain kicked in again. The last two miles passed through some lovely meadows and farms, though I paid for the views with some heavy rain squalls that soaked me down to my toes.
I’ll try to remember the feeling next time I’m getting baked by the scorching sun.
- Start: Big Stony Creek Rd (Mile 659.1)
- End: VA 42 (Mile 677.7)
- Weather: Rain. Again
- Earworm: Back to “Let it Be”
- Meditation: Mt. 5 (again, so much to chew on)
- Plant of the Day: Mountain Laurel
- Best Thing: Trail magic
- Worst Thing: Banging my head
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