May 7, 2013
Today’s mileage: 16.8
Total mileage: 697.8
We woke up to a break in the rain this morning. I thought maybe we would get lucky and the rain would clear out soon. Not a chance. As soon as we stepped out of the shelter to start our hike, the rain began coming down. My pack was still wet inside, all of my hiking clothes were wet, and I braced for having to deal with my pack cover retaining a pool of water in its bottom all day.
I put on dry socks this morning. I’m not sure why I did that. They were soaked in less than 20 minutes after we had no choice but to cross through a flooded section of the trail that was ankle deep. Thunder rumbled loudly over our heads and lightning lit up the sky around us. I’m trying really hard to get over my fear of thunderstorms and today I did pretty well with it. I just focused on hiking and kept moving. It passed over in about ten minutes and we only heard a few more rumbles of thunder throughout the rest of the day. We’ll see how I do hiking on top of a mountain during a raging storm. I’ll keep you updated.
As we reached the top of Brush Mountain, we hiked up to the Audie Murphy Monument. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and sadly died in a plane crash on Brush Mountain in 1971. We researched Murphy tonight and found out that he enlisted in 1942 when he was only seventeen years old. He lied about his age in order to join the Army during the war and served in the Mediterranean and European theaters until 1945. He suffered from PTSD after the war and after his death, his wife devoted her time to help soldiers with PTSD.
We ran into two guys from Portland that we had met coming out of Hot Springs who were doing a SOBO section to Atkins after getting off for a friend’s graduation. They had stopped at the shelter up ahead and found an abandoned dog with a wound on his back. They were taking him down to the road to try and get him to an animal shelter. The poor dog was friendly, but in rough shape. I hope he ends up being okay and finding a good home. He was lucky to run into two hikers willing to take time out of their day to help him. Like I’ve said before, you meet a lot of great people out here.
The rain hadn’t let up after we took a break around 1:30 and I could sense frustration building up in both of us. We were wet and miserable. My feet hurt, my rain wrap was being difficult, and I kept having to dump out water from my pack cover. I could have easily given up and felt bad for myself in such a lowly situation the rest of the day. But I knew that if I wanted to get through the hike today, I had to channel my frustration and use it to fuel my legs to get me up and down the mountains. I knew that things could have been way worse. Sure, I was wet, but it wasn’t windy and I wasn’t cold. I think it’s also easy for us to look at rain as “bad” weather, when in reality it is very necessary to our survival. Where would we be without rain filling up our drinking sources and allowing our plants and trees to grow? Rain is a very good thing. It’s so easy to negate rain because it ruins plans and makes us feel miserable. As we grow from children to adults, we are in danger of losing that child-like sensibility towards rain, towards snow, towards life itself. We forget their purpose and how much fun they can be. Jumping through mud puddles in your yellow rain boots, running out into the first snow catching snowflakes on your tongue, and stopping for a moment to realize how sweet life it is. Cliché to some, but true for each and everyone of us. I have a lot of time to think during the day, and today I remembered why I need to learn to love the rain again.
As we neared Dragons Tooth, a huge stone monolith just off the trail, the rain stopped and the skies began to clear to reveal the green mountainsides full of blooming trees. We went down to Dragons Tooth and then began the descent down a couple of ladders and steep rock climbs. It took us longer than usual to hike this mile-long section because the rocks were slick. It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have our packs of course, but we managed to climb down without any falls.
We had planned on doing a quick resupply in Catawba and then finishing off a 24 mile day at a shelter just before McAfee Knob, but our hike took us longer than we had anticipated, not to mention that my feet were hurting pretty bad. I’ve also been dealing with a bad headache just on the left side of my head lately. I had it for a couple of days last week only while hiking. It came back again yesterday and for some of today. Advil helps, but I’m still trying to decipher the cause of these unusual headaches. We decided to stay at Four Pines Hostel, a sweet donation-based hostel in a three-bay garage. Joe Mitchell is a really nice guy and even gave us a ride to the grocery store down the road. We’ve got plenty of room to hang our stuff out to dry and I’m looking forward to sleeping in a super comfy reclining chair by the wood-stove. We had pizza for dinner, played some darts, and strummed on the guitar here. We endured the rain, learned to appreciate it, and now take respite from it in the company of our fellow hikers.