State number 2 down! No more stops in North Carolina. Over 400 miles completed including 98 in the last 6 days. Here's another example of a bad day on the trail...
Ever wonder how fast you can run with a 30 pound backpack? Well go to the top of the nearest 6000 ft mountain and wait for the first lightning storm to come along.
After spending three days doing over 17 miles each in an effort to catch up with Bill and another fellow hiker, Hawk. These guys must be flying because I always seem to miss them by about 5 to 8 miles. Bill's last message to me was that they would be at Loft mountain, arguably one of the toughest climbs on the trail before the White mountains in New Hampshire. Well I calculated I could do the 17 miles without a problem even if there was a tough climb involved, after all I've been going up and down like 5 times a day for the last month. So I left out of the Cherry Gap shelter on my way. I stopped for lunch at another shelter about 10 miles down the trail. I even took the time to take a quick sponge bath (I poured a bottle of water over me). Then I signed the the shelter log book, "Stopped for a break, got naked and drenched myself in water. After all, what's a shark without water? ~ Jaws"
After my good long break I was ready to go. I only had 7 more miles to go and it was only 2:30. Normally I can knock out 7 miles in about 3 hours. Heck I just did 10 in 4 hours so I'm feeling pretty good.
Well after I left the shelter... almost immediately, it started raining. Then it got worse... and worse... and darn it, worse. I had to stop a few times to remind myself why I was doing this. I really wanted to get to hang out with the guys again.
After the first four miles of negotiating wet trail, mud and some minor puddles I managed to get to the "hard" part, the last three miles, all up hill... No, up a mountain! The first mile I was working really hard since the grade up the trail increased dramatically and was very muddy. For every step I took, I slid back half a step. Needless to say I wasn't going very fast.
On the second mile, I had a hand-over-foot climb to several false summits. Then just as I was getting to the first of two peaks, here comes the thunder. I don't want to say I had a close call, but close enough to see the tree that got hit and for my hair to stand up. I didn't know lightning could come out the bottom of a tree. I don't expect the birds hanging out for cover at the base of the tree did either. Well, I thought to myself, "as much as I like fried chicken, I'm not sticking around!" I think if someone clocked me going down the hill I would have gotten a speeding ticket. Anything to keep from getting the hairs on my behind from being singed. I'm not a stunt man, but I sure must have looked like one as I jumped and dove down the rocky ledge slipping and misstepping most of the way. I even did a Tarzan swing off of a couple tree limbs. I managed to get down into the next gap and was spared from any more fireworks. But now I had to hang out and wait for the lightning to pass before proceeding back up the next peak.
After waiting for about 30 minutes on my rubber sleeping pad (holding my ankles), I continued. The last mile and half had to be the worst. All up hill through mud and puddles over a foot deep. Everything I had on me, including me, was soaked. I even put my hikers umbrella away because that was just useless at that point. "After all, what's a shark without water?"
Now I just wanted the shelter. I climbed FOREVER! And it was starting to get dark! Where did the time go? On my final steps of the trail, I happen to look up and see a sign. With my flashlight in hand I read the sign telling me I was 0.1 miles from the shelter. FINALLY! The end of the worst day on the trail ever. Well at least I'll get to tell the guys about it. When I stepped into the shelter, Bill and Hawk were no where to be found. Man those guys fly!
"Ok this is double hot chocolate day."