Two Toenails down, 500 Miles to Go.
Well, yesterday I slipped down a small rock face. The rain had just picked up again, the granite was extra slippery, and my trekking poles failed. Down I went, my poles slammed into the rock and, in turn, one of them bopped me upside the head. I slid. I used both of my elbows to slow the fall. I stopped, and then cried. No, this was not one of those moments where I hurt myself and then laugh, or sit still, stunned. This was one of those moments where I straight-up howled like a four year old. Within a minute, a bump began to sprout out of my forehead like a cartoon who’s just had a piano dropped on them. I’m fine now, but a little peeved at Vermont’s incessant rainy-trend.
Earlier in the day, Lucas commented on the violent wind, trying to rip all of the leaves from their birthplace. He said, “If it weren’t so sunny, I’d say it’s about to rain.”
Around 1pm, we sunbathed on a wooden tent platform as we ate tortillas and rehydrated hummus for lunch, grateful for a clear sky. Little did we know, there was an electrical storm approaching. Our plan was to hike four more miles to a footbridge and stream, find a “flat” spot for our tent, and then make dinner. Right after we left the shelter, the sun disappeared. I looked around, noticing that the forest looked as dark as it does in the afternoon, and that it had grown quiet. “I think it might rain,” I said, taking my pack off.
“Yeah, good call,” Lucas said as he began repacking his backpack, in order for it to be water safe.
As soon as we had dropped our packs, we heard it. The sky rumbled far-off, and then the leaves several feet away began to shake. The noise coming from the treetops moved closer, as if rolling within a wave. Our pace went from a mild 2 mph, to a steady 3mph as we hurried away from the approaching sound. There is no denying the sound of heavy raindrops, especially 3 months into a thru-hike. We were in for it, and drenched before I had even mentally accepted it. Wasn’t it just sunny? I thought to myself as I scampered over slick rocks. Didn’t the nice couple who gave us a ride say it would be clear for the next 3 days?
For the past week, my socks have been soaked; the Appalachian Trail is now the Appalachian Stream; the mosquitoes are breeding in all of the random puddles; my trenched feet have lost two toe nails; all of the “vistas” are a view of the blank, white sky.
And boy, does my heart quicken when I hear a nearby lightning strike. During a recent storm, Lucas and I stayed in a shelter with three others, only 0.3 miles from the top of Glastenbury Mountain. Now, I usually seek low altitude during an electrical storm, but in this particular case, we had no choice. Lucas, our friend Monologue, and I made it to the shelter right as it began to rain, so we hunkered down. Future A.T. Thru-hikers and long distance backpackers, I encourage you not to google hiker deaths during an electrical storm. My head will forever be filled with horror stories.
I sat on my sleeping pad, entire body wrapped up in my fleece blanket, watching the lightning make its appearance. The temperature dropped into the 40s, the tin roof rang loud as raindrops questioned its structural soundness, wind brought mist into the three-walled shelter, and I jumped every time the sky cracked its metaphorical whip. The next morning, we hiked up to the top of the mountain and saw a tall, metal fire tower. Within twenty feet of the tower, several trees looked freshly destroyed. Lovely.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against rain–in fact, I sleep the best in it. I’m just noting that my life has become centered around weather, and that I get jumpy whenever I hear an especially loud plane fly by. I think it’s important to talk about these things and not present a thru-hike as all fun and play. There will be times where you are close to miserable, as you hike eighteen miles in wet shoes or within five miles of lightning strikes that shake the earth, but those times do pass. Approaching the sign to a shelter is way more exciting when you’re at that point, unsure if you’ll even make it out alive. Sleeping on a particularly slope-y spot is luxury when it’s picked in a rush, and essential for keeping you dry.
As of now, Lucas and I are nearing the Less-than-500-Miles-to-Go mark. I’ll post an update of our adventure soon, but for now, this’ll do. Thought I’d talk about the weather while the bump on my head is still fresh.
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