AT Day 3 – What? It Rains on the AT?
I did not sleep better last night. My mind was not racing, but it was definitely circling the block. And then there was the ground-level thunder all night. Let me explain. The tent sites at Gooch Mountain are big so they request that people pitch two tents per campsite site. So Keith and I pitched our tents on the same site. Now Keith is very considerate and a great neighbor, but he has this practically new air mattress (a Neo Air). It’s a great mattress, but new ones sound like a Harley Davidson in first gear whenever you change your sleeping position. Anyway, Keith was pretty much thundering all night.
Cloudy with chance of precipitation
We escape from camp at 7:20. Our destination is Woods Hole shelter – about 12 miles up the trail. We don’t want to go farther than that today because we want to reach the outfitter early tomorrow morning for our first resupply. The weather is going to keep us focused on the trail.
The rain arrives stealthily as heavy fog. Gradually it gets serious. I am in my “sudden Florida rain” mode. I tell myself, “I don’t need a rain jacket. This rain will quickly pass and the sun will emerge and we will sweat our way up and down these mountains until our squishy shoes dry out, and then we have lunch in the shade.” Anyway, that’s how it works on the Florida Trail.
Silly me. The temperature drops 10 degrees and the wind blows my cold wet shirt against my skin. Brrr. I quickly do what Keith does: put on the rain jacket. Out of deference to the PCT, I do not put my rain pants on. My legs laugh at chilly weather. (If temps drop into the 50’s I will reconsider.) Keith is wearing a stylish Frog Togs jacket. I am wearing an Outdoor Research jacket that I am not entirely sure works. (Why do my arms alway get wet when I wear this thing?)
The trail is not unhappy
After an hour, it looks like the rain may stop. The rain clouds scurry away, looking over their shoulders, giggling among themselves. But these clouds are flirts. Within the hour, they circle around to visit us again. With the rain spoiling all the big views from the trail, we will just have to enjoy the little things. I have been admiring these orange flower bushes since yesterday. I love how this bush clouds the trail.
And then there are these diaphanous lily-like flowers. The rain turns them into sad floppy wet tissue paper flowers. But within an hour they bounce back to beautiful cheerfulness.
And how about this snappy fellow. You don’t see that many variegated plants like this. It has some flower-like fronds coming up from the middle.
And the by some miracle, I see a critter amid all this greenery. It’s a snail. He is heading up a broken stalk. I bend down to reason with him. “Turn around now,” I say. “There is nothin worth seeing up there. Save yourself the trouble.” He ignores me. I try another line of reasoning. “Why go there?” I ask. The snail pauses and then slowly (as you would expect) replies, “And…why…you?” I straighten myself up and look down the trail. He got me. “Have a good trip,” I say. On a rainy day like today, it’s good to remember that it’s still about the journey.
Our destination is the shelter at Woods Hole. And just as we reach the access trail for the shelter, the rain starts again. At this point, my patience is exhausted. Don’t tell me we are going to have to make camp in the rain, too?! (I am hangry, obviously. It’s not a good look on me.) Luckily, I am hiking with Keith. He never gets upset, it seems. Oh, and then the rain stops again. I pretend like I don’t notice.
The trail to the shelter crosses a very small stream. We will gather our water for the evening. Keith gets out his water filter contraption. It’s like a cross between a transistor radio and a bicycle pump. I have never seen anything like it, but it seems to work.
I sit on a rock and watch Keith work. I am stupidly content to be done hiking for the day. But then I look up and am dazzled. It’s not really fair that these numinous moments happen when we least deserve them. I am kind of ashamed, but I quickly forgive myself and put a smile on. Let’s go camping!
The shelter is empty. We pile into it and crowd against the wall to get out of the weather. The rain has stopped, but the wind is ferocious with gusts up to 30 mph. I gamely mention that this is one of the reasons I came out here. I need to use my tent in bad weather. Wind and blowing rain are exactly what I need right now. (How’s that for some positive thinking?!) I actually get a little excited about setting up my tent. Apply what you know about pitching tents in the wind to this tent, Doolittle. You Can Do It!
Keith is not buying this whole line of BS from me. It will be the shelter for him tonight.
As I head off to bed I see the oddest thing in the grass. Two snails, er, doing something remarkable/beautiful/disgusting on the ground by the shelter. Not sure what it was but here is what it looks like.
- May 6
- Miles hiked today: 12
- Total AT miles: 27
- Creature of the day: snail (despite hiking no miles)
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