There’s nothing quite like swinging your legs out of the side of a hammock in the morning, slowly shoving your body out of the cocoon of comfort, to find the campsite completely vacant. Another day in my life as the last one awake. I swear my body’s time clock follows it’s on routine.
The plus side is this generally leaves me to do whatever I feel like, and I mean WHATEVER I feel like. Glancing back south down the trail, I saw splashes of white and heard the stream gurgling happily in the morning sun. How can I resist? There’s nothing like stripping down butt ass naked and jumping in an ice cold stream first thing in the morning and washing your clothes to get you moving faster than a shot of joe or blow. But maybe I’m crazy. Actually, I am crazy. But I digress.
Fortunately, the day warmed up fairly quickly, and I was able to dry of my creek soaked clothing in about 30 minutes just from hiking. But of course, the trail always tends to wreck your plan.
Right as my clothes had begun to dry, a massive, and I am talking roaring thunder claps, began to converge on me. The sky plummeted into a deep blue-grey, and I could feel the static energy darting through the air around me in anticipation of the rain (or electrocuting me). I quickly threw on my rain gear when the sprinkling started, and within seconds the mist had turned into an outright downpour with lightning crashing through the trees all around me. I wasn’t too worried about getting struck considering I was on a lower part of the trail and there were plenty of taller objects in the area.
I will say that I find hiking in the rain quite enjoyable. Especially because I have rigged my phone’s dry bag to allow me to run the headphones out to listen to music without damaging my comm line. That being said, too much rain can just be frustrating. All of my clothing was completely soaked through in a matter of minutes. After the initial waterfall, the rain continued at a steady and fairly heavy pace the rest of the day. But all is well, because I had checked Instagram a few days ago and the next shelter to come supposedly had one of the legendary barefoot-carved spoons hidden by one of the signs (if no one had taken it by now…)
The trail was a mess. All of the hills were running like little streams. My socks and shoes were completely wet, and I could feel my feet shriveling and sloshing with every step. When I reached the shelter trail, I was starving and there was no spoon so that was really really sad. I decided to sit my wet ass down on a wet-ass rock and eat a MetRx bar. The shelter was a 0.2 spur, and I honestly didn’t feel like heading all the way there, but I finally pulled up my pack and hoofed down as the rain started to come down heavier again.
On arriving, I met a new flip-flopper on the trail from Danton OH. Hadn’t earned his trail name yet and was there all alone, so I made company and chatted with him for a bit. Turns out he went to University of Alabama for a year, and needless to say the frat lifestyle didn’t suite him too well. For whatever odd coincidence, there don’t seem to be a bunch of those types out on the trail (from my experience at least).
The rain subsided while at the shelter, so I decided to take off and aim for the next one. Unfortunately, everything was still completely soaked and the rocks were quite slippery.
When I arrived at the shelter, (which was one of the nicer ones I had come across), I stopped to eat dinner and chat with Wayfarer for a while.
Wayfarer was a 72 year old man who was NOT ONLY doing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but a partial thru-hike of the ECT. The ECT stands for the Eastern Continental Trail, which is essentially a 5,400 mile trail that extends from Key West Florida all the way to Labrador, Canada. He was not planning to do the entire thing, but a 3,300 mile chunk of it from Key West up to Katahdin, Maine. He had everyday planned out to a minute schedule (including when he pooped :). This old guy is a legend. While not being the most popular person on the trail (he wakes up at 4AM everyday and goes to sleep around 7PM), he sure is hell one of the most tenacious MOFO’s out here.
I asked him about the Pinhoti trail, which is a piece of the ECT in sweet home Alabama, and he definitely didn’t recommend it, especially for a winter hike as the trail is “incredibly dry”. He was fortunate enough in his planning ahead to get rangers in Talladega National Forest to leave him water caches throughout the duration of the 200 mile length. Having done only very small sections (and most of them pretty dry from what I remember), I can certainly agree this would take a good bit of planning to put together.
After dinner, I decided to push on to camp elsewhere as there were no good hammock hangs. However, not far down the trail I ended up almost missing a great stealth spot that was nestled away in a field off in the mountain laurels. Thankfully, I was able to make out a faint trail off into the woods, and followed it to a lovely little nook in the woods. Couldn’t have found a prettier, more magical spot in the woods. Except there were no good poop spots…