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Today was by far the craziest and most eventful day on the trail so far. Ok it’s only been 16 days so far, but really I feel like its already been many more weeks than just two.
It started off much like any other. I woke up at 8ish and got started on the trail later than most at 10am. I was debating doing a 10 mile day to a shelter or going ahead and doing 17 to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, a fairly big milestone. I figured I’d be able to catch up with the guys (now dubbed the wolf pack) that I had to let go of when I was coming out of my flu-induced exhaustion.
When I got to Burningtown Gap, just 2 or so miles into my hike, I came upon a few of my fellow hikers hanging with someone named Grits. He’d offered some trail magic and allowed us to throw our packs into his truck to take to the NOC while we hiked the next 14 miles without that weight (also called “slack packing”.) I was feeling awesome cruising those mountains without so much as a stop to catch my breath.
I made it to the top of an observation tower where a Christian camp met me, and in the distance we saw some storm clouds and lightning. I wasn’t too worried because there was only a 30% chance of scattered thunderstorms. Just a mile past that it started getting dark. It started sprinkling but I still wasn’t too worried. If anything it felt good because I was working up quite a sweat.
And then the sky freaking opened up. There was some pretty loud lightning at this point and I’m at the top of a mountain trying to get down off of it. All of a sudden it’s raining really hard and I’m completely drenched. I take cover under a small tree and then a lightning and thunder burst shot overhead that made me have a reaction that I’ve never had in my life. It’s hard to describe, but it involved me crouching down because my knees went weak almost in fetal position and screaming a string of profanities and then scurrying away. I’ve never felt terror like that, for real. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, and still very much on top of the mountain, it started hailing. A lot. Only pea size, but they still hurt when they hit the top of your head. I ran and found someone else hiding somewhat under a tree. Since we were there I found out his name. Ironically, it was Storm.
I kept going, walking through hail granules literally two inches thick and mixed with heavy currents of rainwater and mud coursing down the trail. Absolutely, completely drenched. And I still had like 8 miles or something left. I finally caught up to someone named Ogre and we walked the last couple of miles into the NOC looking like wet, pathetic stray animals.
I did happen to walk into my group of friends though, and found out I had a place to stay at a friends cabin nearby. I had no idea what to expect with a “cabin”, but I figured it’s be similar to what I’ve been staying at in the trail. All I wanted was dry clothes and warm food. Well imagine the surprise when we ride up to the cabin, which is actually used to rent out to vacationers. Flat screen tv, hot shower, washer/dryer… Yeeuh! A day of complete highs and lows.
Now we’re making Oreo, pepperoni, cheese and bacon combinations and I’m ready to get to bed. Crazy day, but I’m positive it’s not the last!
Jimmie “Walk and Eat” Jackson, left, recently walked, ate and blogged his way through the Appalachian Trail. Check out his posts and his many awesome pics right here. And thanks for sharing with the Sasquatch, Jimmie!
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