Day 68 – The Best Laid Plans
Planning things and how those plans play out are always interesting to me. I’m fairly type A, so when a plan comes together and plays out how you saw it, it’s a satisfying thing. Sometimes when a plan goes haywire and goes inside a twisty straw, taking a very circuitous route, but still ends up working, also satisfying (I live much of my life this way too). But when a well-intended plan goes wrong, these are the most frustrating times.
Many of the inhabitants of Stanimals Hostel were up at 7:00 a.m. I was one of them, albeit very briefly as I went back to sleep until well after 8:00. Breakfast was a spread of blueberry pancakes. A lovely treat, although I found myself craving butter flavored syrup (a staple at home but severely lacking at present). We all repacked our bags after last night’s resupply. Donned our fresh and laundered clothes and headed out for our ride back to the trail.
Freedom, our driver got us there in record time. Rain was in the forecast but not for a few hours. We had ten miles to the next shelter where we would reassess. Rain is supposed to abate in the evening and some night hiking could be on the agenda. The day hiking started and spirits were good. We even had a nice view from a lookout. The clouds were overcast, but not menacing by any means.
Motivations were strong as we hiked, bodies felt good, rested, and robust. I jabbed at Sip and Rabbit for wearing their rain gear so early. Rain gear doesn’t “breathe” very well and when you’re exerting yourself it’s almost like wearing a sweat jacket. I was glad to have the cool air on my base layer that morning.
Sip felt the same way after a few hours of hiking and decided to take his off during a quick break. I was so engaged with my phone I didn’t think to tell him, it was probably about to start really raining soon. Within 30 minutes it had started, and we were all still five miles from the shelter. The hiking math on that plays out to be another 2+ hours in these conditions.
After it starts raining, it’s not long before everything is soaked. Sure, your pack is covered and your upper body isn’t soaked (by rain anyways), but everything from the waist down is done for. Shoes and socks forget about it. Pants/shorts and underwear, done. Luckily, I went commando this day.
Puddles become just another place to step. Wetness exists on a very narrow spectrum, it’s not black and white but once you’ve got a “squish” sound coming from the inside of your shoe, more water in that equation is not a bother. It’s an almost freeing level of helplessness (almost). The surroundings and weather no longer matter. You’re just existing in a state of moisture until either you stop or the moisture around you stops. In our case, we stopped first.
We arrived at Matt’s Creek Shelter around 3:30. I found Rabbit and Sip with Huff and Puff (sans Ruff) who I had not seen since before Trail Days. Everyone was standing uncomfortably wet and dripping inside the Shelter. It’s located in a camping restricted area due to bear activity. Huff and Puff decided to hike on to the next shelter in four miles. We decided to wait out the rain.
I pulled out my sleeping mat and pad and changed into dry clothes. I slept well last night but I figured if we had time to kill, a nap seemed like a good way to spend it. Wet clothes were rung out and hanging, dry clothes warming on my body I climbed into my sleeping bag and knocked out. I woke up close to 8:00 p.m. and nearly dark.
We all ate a few dry snacks and debated our options. Get changed back into cold clothes and hike another four miles (still raining btw, although much lighter), orrrrr do nothing, stay here, and brave potential bear activity. We live dangerously.
It’s amazing how rain makes you delirious, delusional, and depressed. While hiking I found myself talking and singing out loud and alone. I stewed in my feelings “this was supposed to be our zero day.” “If I get to that shelter and it’s full, I’m hiking on alone. Eff it, I’m already wet.” Although I felt odd feeling this way.
Did I not fully enjoy our nero at Bryant Ridge Shelter two nights ago? I did. Did I wish we’d have hiked ten more miles that day? I did. Would I have traded the first reality for the second option? I’m not sure. Today could have been a zero, we could have been watching “Top Gun” at Stanimals on a warm, dry couch. But I also fully enjoyed the unexpected party that ensured at Bryant Ridge. I need to be better about enjoying the here and now, so perhaps this is a test.
Provided nobody dies in a freak bear accident tonight, this is as good of time as anything to practice being present and “hunting the good stuff” if you will. I’m happy to be presently dry, and in good spirits. Happy to catch up on sleep. I’m happy to be on this trail and this journey with these people.
Stow away in my pack for day 69 on the Appalachian Trail.
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