Night Storms Might Be the Worst

Day 113: 2,390 ft ascent, 16.9 miles

I grew up in Ohio across the street from a corn field. Fields of corn always remind me of home. After months of walking through the green tunnel, I got a smile on my face as we walked out of the woods into a field of corn.

We reached the Cumberland Valley late in the afternoon. We had been rushing all day to meet Trail Magic, one of the most amazing trail angels we have met on trail. We had coordinated to meet at 4pm at a trailhead.

Furnace in Boiling Springs

Natalie (Trail Magic) and her husband (Just John) have spent the past two years quickly growing their support of hikers on the trail. By luck, they had even met my dad on the trail almost a month earlier the day before he got off trail for injury! (They didn’t know it at the time, we figured it out when Erik and I met them and were telling stories.)

Natalie whisked us away from the trail and took us to REI and the grocery store. In the continuing saga of finding shoes, I was able to find some LaSportiva vegan boots to replace my Hokas. I still wanted boots for the rocks. My plan was to carry both pairs of shoes until Duncannon. If the boots worked, I would send home the shoes to wear again when I got home. If these boots gave me allergy issues, I would send them home for my mom to return.

Natalie made us an amazing dinner and we had a nice evening swapping our stories from the trail and their stories of meeting other hikers. Things you take for granted at home like a hot shower and a soft bed are valued so much more when living on the trail. We went to bed refreshed that night.

Day 114: 2,290 ft ascent, 16.9 miles

Back to the land of the corn! We decided to do a big six day food carry, so we had heavy packs as we took off between farm fields. The trail was very flat with easy walking.

About mid-morning we came upon a food stand. I got some fresh chocolate milk, what a treat! It was another hot day so the extra liquid was nice.

This was the AT so the flat, easy walking couldn’t last forever. The climbs came at the end of the day. We considered stopping at the last water source for the day, but decided to push ahead and get the last climb of the day over with. We were walking through Duncannon the next day. The extra walking today would get us in range to get to Duncannon for breakfast.

We found our camp spot at a place my dad had scoped out a few days prior. It was on top of the ridge in the middle of a gas line easement. The cleared trees made for a nice view into the valley. We went to sleep excited for breakfast and a half day the next day.

Day 115: 350 ft ascent, 6.7 miles

Erik woke up around 12:45am and heard the wind picking up. We had seen a severe weather watch before we set up our camp, but we hadn’t paid too much attention to it. When Erik checked the radar, he saw a huge line of storms headed straight at us.

The watch had become a warning! His rustling woke me up. I looked at the warning and it called for 60 mph winds, nickel-sized hail, and a possible stray tornado! Erik and I were quickly wide awake assessing the situation.

The storm would hit us in the next ten minutes or so. We were up in a clearing on the ridge. We didn’t know if that meant the winds would hit us harder or not. We were away from trees so we didn’t have to worry about branches falling on us. The closest shelter was two miles ahead. The closest road was two miles behind.

The best thing we could think to do was batten down the hatches and hope for the best.

We quickly ran out of the tent and grabbed some big rocks from the fire pit nearby. Our tent has four extra attachment points for use during high winds. This seemed the time to use them. Our plan was to put the ends of each attachment point either around the rock or just under it, whatever we had time to do.

We got three of the sides set up quickly. The fourth side we struggled with. The factory knot had come undone a few months ago and I had haphazardly tied it back together thinking we would never need to use it. Now here I was in the middle of the night trying to undo this knot as quickly as I could.

I tried to do it and was failing. I threw it to Erik for a minute as it started to sprinkle. He made some progress. I got impatient and asked for it back (or maybe took, it was stressful). It started raining harder as we finally got it loosened and set up. We dove back into the tent just as the rain started really coming down.

All we could do was wait out the storm. We sat there terrified for our lives for the first time on this adventure. It’s hard not being able to do anything and knowing any minute your shelter might be blown away. The strongest part of the storm only lasted about 20 very long minutes. Finally the rain seemed to be letting up, and looking at the radar the worst was past us.

We didn’t get any hail and we don’t think we got the 60mph winds where we were. We were slightly below the top of the ridge line, which I suspect may have saved us from the worst of the winds. Luckily we have a great tent which has so far kept us completely dry through every storm we’ve faced.

In hindsight the only thing we probably should’ve done that we didn’t was prepare our gear in case we lost the tent. If that had happened we would’ve had to start walking to the next shelter. We were extremely grateful to have survived the storm only losing a little sleep. After that experience, we decided we needed to do a better job planning where we camp when there’s potential bad weather on the way.

The view from the campsite before we left. Much calmer than when we’re up in the middle of the night!

Steep stairs into Duncannon

Breakfast in Duncannon!

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Comments 3

  • thetentman : Aug 6th

    Nice post.

    What is the tents name and brand?


  • Ann : Aug 8th

    Sent you a little something to help with your new boots. Breakfast looks good and was probably delicious!! Finally caught up on your posts. I will try not to get so far behind again.

  • Jon : Aug 19th

    Met and hiked with your dad the past few days in Vermont. Great guy. Enjoy your hike! – The Incident


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