Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BACK FROM BACKPACKING (you gotta read this story and see these pictures)

MMMmmmm, it was wonderful! I would have been happy to go another day. Or two. Or 150.

Eight miles yesterday, overnight in my tent in the rain (stayed dry this time) eight miles back today. It was hot, hiking. I sweated like crazy. It felt great. Mountain laurel is in bloom.

Yesterday I got tired early, and my backpack didn't feel good. Felt like I'd been hiking for hours (and in fact I had) when I passed a landmark that my guide book said was 3 miles from my starting point. 3 miles???? In 3 hours???? I've got 5 miles (5 hours?) to go??? GACKKK!!!

The good news was that I'd hiked all the way to the next state already.

Almost as soon as I hit the trail, I met up with a man named Ray who was hiking from Front Royal, VA to Maine. We hiked together some; now and then one or the other of us would take a break or go ahead, but we kept catching up to each other. Shortly after that 3-mile place, we met up again and stayed together after that. We talked a lot about grown kids, grandkids, books, and of all things, hiking, and the miles went faster.

View from an outcropping:

Is it any wonder I love this Trail?

There were actually quite a few thru-hikers (northbound having started in Georgia.) I needn't have worried about being alone (the reason I took Journey, so I wouldn't have to camp alone overnight.) Here are, left to right, Ronja, a Swiss Mountain Dog who thru-hiked with her owner Rhino from Georgia to Maine a couple years ago and is doing it a second time; Ronja's German owner, Rhino; Bad Idea (I love that Trail Name) petting Journey; Byron, who doesn't use a Trail Name. All of us, including Ray, ate lunch together beside a stream.

Ronja takes full advantage of the rest stop. She's an experienced hiker and knows the ropes.

I noticed that Journey, a gen-u-wyne mongrel pound-hound, looks almost identical to Ronja, a gen-u-wyne Swiss Mountain Dog. Several people I met asked if "Journey" is Journey's real name or her Trail Name.

During the night it poured rain a couple times. After my last rainy campout, I'd sealed my tent seams and sprayed it with Scotchgard Outdoor spray, and I stayed dry as a bone. Journey, my pack/gear, and I barely fit inside but we figured it out. Journey slept between my feet.

For my return trip, I redistributed the stuff in my pack, doing away with firmly-compressed cylinders of sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and groundcloth, just piling all loosely into the pack (except the pad, which I folded instead of rolling) and letting them vie for space until they had filled in all the voids. The tent went on the outside, since it was wet. Everything fit a lot better and my pack felt lighter and rode immeasurably better.

Here's just a pretty stretch of trail on the way home:

It rained a little, off and on. I tried something new this trip: an umbrella, instead of rain jacket. I loved it!

And back into Virginia, which meant 3 miles left to go.

I went a lot faster than on the way out, not that speed is an issue, it just shows how much more comfortable I was after repacking. On the other hand, it turned out to be an issue after all, because I'd been hearing distant thunder, and after another mile or so it was getting closer. The rain started just as I reached my car. By the time I had Journey and my pack in, the storm was in full force and I decided not to drive in it, and waited it out in the parking lot. Wow!! Serious driving rain, trees whipping back and forth, lightning striking all around -- I could see the strikes nearby. I was glad I wasn't still out on the Trail and thought about hikers I'd seen just recenly that I knew were getting clobbered.

Finally it let up and I drove out to the highway. Uh-oh:

And this is only one of them. They were everywhere. I was wise to wait it out, or I'd have been on this road when they came down.

Oh, no, traffic at a standstill:

One impatient driver trying to go around the tie-up:

Fire fighters clearing the mess:

Gee whillikers, I hope the hikers that got caught out there are OK.

Traffic inched along getting nowhere for about 20 minutes. Then a woman with an umbrella came towards the line of cars with a report: Trees and power lines down over the next mile, time estimate 2-3 hours to clear. Luckily I was near a side road and turned off. I didn't know where it went but guessed I could figure out the general direction and end up back out on the highway and/or back in Winchester.

A couple hundred yards in on the side road, I came upon this. Holy smoke. Can you see there's a friggin' TRUCK in there???

It was in an otherwise-deserted parking lot, and I pulled in and looked inside.... no one in there. Thank goodness:

Just ironically.... this is the facility in whose parking lot this occurred:

The local TV news comes out of Washington, D.C. Although they had no reports of storm damage in the Berryville, VA area, there was a confirmed tornado touchdown east of D.C. where *jeanne* lives. I called her but wasn't able to get an answer. I left voicemails on her home and cell phones. *jeanne*, are you OK???

I don't think it was a tornado that we had here, because the trees that were down were all lying the same direction, and there was no swath of destruction. I've seen tornado damage before; I think this was straight-line wind in a ferocious thunderstorm, maybe a microburst.

So I'm back, after a glorious backpacking trip followed by excitement (I don't want anyone go get hurt, and I feel really bad for the owner of the truck), but..... a good storm is one of the things I really like, right up there with a good hike.)

Things I learned on this trip:

  • It's better to wait out a nasty storm.

  • My stuff fits in my backpack more nicely when it's not all compressed into a bunch of hard, cylindrical lumps.

  • I use an amazing amount of water in camp.

  • It's hard to look out for a dog while hiking.... looking after oneself is quite enough.

  • Check more scrupulously for ticks: I pulled on off my scalp after a shower AND shampoo this evening... and I'd worn a hat the whole time hiking.

  • Although there are many AT hikers, a very small percent are women. I met one. She was section-hiking, started in Georgia 5 years ago; lives in San Diego, comes east once a year, picks up where she left off, and hikes another section. She seemed my age or maybe 5 years older.

  • I love an umbrella for hiking and camping in the rain.

  • I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. But we knew that already, didn't we?


Miss Rachel said...

Great post and photographs! No wonder at all why you love that trail. I am glad you and Journey got through the storm OK (and just in time it sounds like).

I love reading about this. Will there be a way for you to update periodically when you're doing your thru-hike? (Is the AT online? Hee hee.)

Cliff said...

My friend was asking me to go backpacking. i told him I will do so after my marathon in Mid Oct.

I can't wait. I haven't gone camping for a long long time.

I only worry about the ticks.

From Here to There said...

Wow, that's some scary weather! I'm really glad that it bypassed your camp.

I can see why you'd like an umbrella for camp, but would one of those 'hat' umbrella dealies be of any value? I've seen them in the dollar stores, and I think they'd be great for activities when you want to keep your hands free. Might not cover enough over you back though.

Great report, loved reading it!

*jeanne* said...

Thank you for always checking on me when things happen! And I am so sorry that I never seem to find your messages (or manage to get them even when I'm RIGHT HERE when they come in! SNAFU in our home answering machines, and my usual dumb placement of my own cell phone where I cannot hear it. Like anyplace, I'm half deaf nowadays.)

Doug said...

I remember that "Welcome to West Virginia" sign like it was yesterday. After more than a month in Virginia, and not racking up another new state for so long, it was a very welcome sight. We stopped at the ATC Headquarters for the obligatory picture, and then walked on into Maryland for our second new state in the same day. It was pretty thrilling!!

Isn't that the stretch they have nicknamed the "Roller Coaster". If I remember correctly it was in Northern Virginia.

Jade Lady said...

Wow, this is what hiking is like! Beautiful photos. Glad to hear your hike went well, and thank goodness you got back to your car before the big storm hit!