When we woke up this morning, the rain had abated somewhat, but the clouds were still hanging low. Scar and I packed up our stuff and headed to the campground office to settle our accounts, and to forage for something to eat for breakfast. The lady running the office told us that she would give us a ride back to the trailhead whenever we were ready to go, and soon we were on our way.
Anyway you looked at it, the day was not shaping up to be very enjoyable. Everything in the forest was soaking wet from the overnight rain, and the weather forecast was calling for more of the same. Additionally, we were starting the day at an elevation of 951 feet, and had to climb over the 4,225 foot tall Apple Orchard Mountain. With all of the ups and downs in between, we were facing at least 5,000 feet of climbing, so we thanked our driver, put on our backpacks, and got to work.
Our morning warm-up was a little 1,000 foot up and down over Fork Mountain. Scar’s ankle was feeling much better, and he soon left me in his dust (mud). The trail was very smooth for most of the morning, and the mist hanging in the air gave the surrounding woods an ephemeral quality that was really pretty.
Following a grueling 3,000 foot climb up Floyd Mountian, I caught up with Scar for lunch at the Cornelius Creek Shelter. Earlier in the day, I had been trying to talk Scar into a 2.2 mile round trip “blue blaze” side trip to see to 200 foot tall Apple Orchard Falls. When I finally arrived at the shelter, I told Scar that Apple Orchard Falls was off of my agenda for the day, and he didn’t take much convincing to agree.
After lunch, we continued our climb, and the trail turned very rocky which slowed down forward progress. Scar soon pulled ahead of me, and as it got later, I began to doubt that I had enough energy to to complete the final ascent before nightfall. As I approached the junction of the trial to Apple Orchard Falls, the rain started coming down in buckets. Not the regular sized buckets, but the big five gallon buckets like you buy at the Home Depot.
Now I was soaked to the bone, the temperature was in the high 40’s, and, ironically, I was out of water. For the first time since I started my thru-hike, my internal danger meter moved into the yellow range, and I knew I had to quickly get myself out of this situation. Someone had left two bananas and an apple on the trail sign, so I grabbed a trail magic banana and climbed the steps to USFS Road 812 to find a place to set up my tent.
USFS 812 is a nice road that is paved with gray crushed rock. The only flat spot I could find was on the shoulder of the road, so I grabbed a big rock and started pounding tent stakes through the gravel while the rain continued coming down. The result was not the greatest tent pitch I had ever accomplished, but the tent was at least standing. I tossed everything inside of the tent, and climbed in, finally getting out of the rain.
My greatest desire at this point was to put on dry clothes, but my greatest need was to obtain some water. So I sat there in my wet clothes for about 45 minutes, until the rain subsided enough for me to go back outside and walk several hundred yards to the spring. Thinking that trail magic might be the only dinner I would have, I decided to grab the other banana and the apple while I was out. Unfortunately, someone had come through and beat me to it, and the @sshole left the banana peel hanging on the trail sign (as if to taunt me).
I’m now warm and dry in my tent, with some hot food in my belly, while the storm rages outside. Camping on crushed rock isn’t exactly comfortable, but I’m ecstatic to be out of the rain. I always knew that there would be days like this on the trail, but this is one day that I would like to forget. The fact of the matter, however, is that it is probably the one day that I will always remember.