Franken-Wha?

30 Oct

Well, we were back on the trail last week and were making some good miles. While the nights were starting to get cold, the days were still sunny and warm. True fall weather. The kind I have been in love with as long as I can remember. The trail is covered in leaves and at times treacherous due to leaf/acorn combinations, but the colors are truly magnificent. It was about mid-week when both Jen and I started to get some ominous emails and texts concerning severe weather headed our way. We were frantically Google-ing when cell service permitted and checking the weather channel as much as possible. The gist of what we were reading resulted in a “wait and see” mentality, something we have become quite used to on the trail.

Friday, my good friend Camille came up to the Blue Ridge to pick us up and take us into Waynesboro for some food, shopping, and a night in a bed at her mother’s house. There we were able to do laundry and to plan the next few days. Camille’s plan was to join us for a night hike up and over the Three-Ridges and the Priest. Sunday her mom was meeting us to pick her up and to hand off the rest of our groceries that were not needed for the single night. Not a true slack-pack but an awesome light-pack. After a delicious breakfast and a late start we quickly ascended and descended the Three-Ridges and made it to the base of the Priest with barely enough time to get up and over before sunset. We summited the Priest on Saturday evening in true white out conditions. The fog on the mountain was so thick that the use of our headlamps was almost worse than hiking in the dark. As the light reflected off the water particles that hung in the air, shadows of the naked trees hung in the mist. It was very fitting for both an October night in the woods, and an Edgar Allen Poe tale. However, it was quite awful for walking on rocky terrain and wet leaf covered acorns.

The Priest shelter is 0.8 miles from the summit. A very slow 0.8 miles. And fitting in with the Poe theme of the evening the sign for the shleter was quite old and weathered. One could barely make out letters and and what seemed to be an arrow. For all I really knew it said “creepy doom —>;; this way”, but that seemed too long of a phrase for the little sign. So, down we went hoping to find a place to sleep for the night. As we walked closer to the shelter we were finally able to make out headlamps in the mist and the warm yellow glow of a fire. A much better outcome than a haunted shelter in the mountains, Poe style.

I was happy to see that there were seemingly normal people huddled around a fire, and Jen starting our water to boil for dinner. While there was room in the shelter for us to sleep, we all decided that it would be warmer and easier to rest in the shelters that we had carried with us. Jen and I have come to rely on Aggie, our Big Agnes tent, for some solitude and warmth at the end of the day. Now that the nights are colder we find that we are able to heat the tent without issue, and since the shelter has only three walls it is pretty hard to keep in any warmth. Jen and I quickly set up our tent and then I went to help Camille with her bivy while Jen continued to cook dinner. First I need to point out that Camille’s blood sugar may have been a little low, but even then the design of her bivy is simply lacking. She did all of the right prep work for her trip. She had set up her shelter at home making sure she had all of the pieces and that both her and Atticus, the best pit/lab mix EVER, could fit inside the bivouac. However, with all of this said it was still a difficult set up with two people involved. Trying to set it up alone at the end of a long day would have been quite frustrating. Top that with being cold, damp, and having low blood sugar things may have turned sour quickly. Luckily Camille was sure she could do it and kept her head together long enough to figure it out. She and Atticus would be warm and I could rest easy knowing they were dry and right next to us.

In the morning cold we looked into what our future would hold. I had one little bar of service and was able to get connected to the weather Channel. The forecast? H2O in liquid and solid forms coupled with winds ranging from 15 mph to 60 mph! Not the best forecast for hiking in the mountains on a ridge line. So, while hiking down the mountain we started talking about where we should weather the storm of the century.

Both Jen and I are ready to be done with the trail. We love hiking and being in the woods, but trail life is wearing on us and we are missing our latte’s and our closets that are filled with more than one outfit. Yes, we are girls. Dirty smelly girls, but girls nonetheless. So the thought of leaving the trail right now is hard to swallow. We had been knocking out 20+ mile consecutive days in hopes to be done by early December. We are in business mode now and want to keep chugging along. So we talked for a few miles and eventually agreed that we would never take anyone into the woods with the forecast being what it was, so we too should get off the trail.

Camille’s mom Sarah had issued an invitation to stay before parting on Saturday. While she probably was just being polite and did not expect us to take her up on the invite, we were forced to ask her if she would mind having two house guests. Lucky for us Sarah turned out to be up for some company and is an amazing host as well as an amazing woman! There is no doubt that Camille came from awesomeness, but Sarah is simply wonderful. I can’t believe how fortunate we are to have once again made a friend in such a strong, creative, extraordinary woman. Sarah invited us into her home and life, made us dinner, and provided us with a warm safe place to sleep. On top of that she also introduced us to Tucker. Tuck is a warm hearted yellow lab that welcomed Georgy and humans with open paws. He has given us love and slept by the foot of our bed. He has been a perfect host.

We have done our best to help out around the house. We also did our best to make Sarah a delicious meal the night of the storm. She was kind with her compliments of the meal and it meant a lot because Sarah is a cook. A real cook. So the fact that she ate our chili and cornbread meant the world to us.

So today the storm has passed. It is 36 degrees outside and raining. We are inside by a fire planning the rest of our hike. Much of the coast is misplaced and without power. We are warm, safe, and dry. We are aware of how fortunate we are. The winds have subsided and there is snow on the peaks of the Blue Ridge. Tomorrow we will head out to the trail. We will pick up the trail where we left off, and we will hope for a clear sunny forecast as we set out to hike the remaining 822 miles of the AT.

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2 Responses to “Franken-Wha?”

  1. Molly Randolph October 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Best of luck on your next 822, Emily andJen! The Richmond area was spared the fierce winds that the northern part of the state had. I knew that some of the areas near Winchester and on the Blue Ridge Parkway got snow today. It is supposed to reach 60 degrees here on Wednesday. Wishing you warm weather, too!

  2. Bryn October 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Love you Em! Keep on keepin’ on!

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