Despite my goal of not pushing myself as hard as I had been doing, I walked 19 and 20 miles in two days with less-than-ideal weather.
Perhaps I could do better today by cutting myself some slack. I decided to sleep in an extra hour.
|Date||Thursday, May 25, 2017|
|Weather||Cloudy, then rain in the afternoon and through the night|
|Trail Conditions||Again, no water bars to keep water channeled off the trail; some road walking|
Rain had stopped overnight, but when I awoke this morning I discovered the foot of my sleeping bag was wet. Once again, I had failed to make sure I wasn’t pushing out a gap from the floor to the side of my tent.
Besides that minor problem, I was no worse for wear. As I expected, a bear didn’t try to enter my tent and grab my food.
It was well past 9 a.m. before I was packed up and walking the short side trail from the shelter area back to the trail.
When I reached the trail, I saw a sign I had not noticed when I walked into camp last night.
“Notice — Bear encounters have occurred in this area recently,” it said.
Oops. Perhaps I was a bit too confident thinking last night a bear wouldn’t be looking for food.
Nevertheless, it all worked out and now I was on my way again.
The trail was squishy this morning. No surprise there.
Unfortunately, in some spots it was more than squishy. It was a big, mucky mess.
Though it didn’t rain this morning, there was no chance for the sun to come out and begin to dry anything.
The trail went up 600 feet to the top of a ridge, then followed it for at least three miles before descending again. That’s where I arrived at a large footbridge that crossed Laurel Creek.
The creek was wide with picturesque cascades. The time was just a few minutes after 11:00, but I decided to stop here and eat some lunch. It was a good spot to get water, and a few other hikers were also stopped here.
River and Lost were here, as well as a couple hikers I had not met before, Patch and Yard Sale.
On the other side of the footbridge, the trail again went up about 600 feet to a ridge line. On the way up I passed the only thing remotely resembling sunshine that I would see today, some bright yellow flame azaleas.
There were a couple spots for views from the top of the ridge line, but they were minimized by thick, low clouds.
The next time an opening appeared in the trees, I could see that clouds were getting thicker, making the sky darker. It was obvious I had not seen the last of rain for today.
In fact, about thirty minutes later it started to rain.
Along with the azaleas, I saw some blooming mountain laurels. These were unexpected, as I had not seen any in several days.
The trail took a turn up a gravel road, then followed the road for more than a half mile. A sign here warned of heavy construction equipment up ahead, and a short distance beyond it and around a bend were several large trucks and cranes. The intrusion annoyed me.
As I continued to walk down the road, a pickup truck belonging to the construction company pulled up beside me. Jared, the driver, asked me if I wanted a bottle of water.
It was a nice gesture, so I decided to not resent the presence of the construction equipment quite as much.
The gravel road ended at U.S. Highway 52 near the small town of Bland. At the intersection was a store called Brushy Mountain Outpost.
The store had just recently opened, and the owner was making a nice effort to cater to hikers. Not only did he sell several items a hiker might need, he sold tasty barbecue sandwiches made on the premises. I bought two.
It was nice to get out of the cold rain. River, Lost, and Yard Sale were also there, and we chatted for a while before they decided to go to a nearby hostel.
When I left the store, rain was now coming down in sheets. I attempted to take some photos, but the rain was so heavy it threw off the autofocus of the lens and could not get any shots in focus.
Perhaps it was just because of the heavy rain, but I found it confusing to find my way down the winding road and over Interstate 77. I figured it out, though, and continued the mile-long road walk to where the trail returned to the forest.
Standing there at the trailhead were two very wet hikers, Dishes and Trip. They discovered someone had left a 12-pack of Budweisers there and asked me if I wanted some.
I drank one and asked Trip to put one in the outer mesh pocket of my pack. Dishes and Trip stayed to do their best to drink the rest.
Then I began a long and sloppy climb back up to the top of the ridge.
It wasn’t yet 6 p.m. when I reached Helveys Mill Shelter, so I decided to keep walking for another hour or so. I shrugged off the rain, figuring I was as wet as I was going to get.
After two more miles of walking I found a spot to pitch my tent just off the trail.
It was still raining about as hard as before. I was glad for my early dinner at the store near Bland, so I didn’t have to cook dinner now.
I hung my bear bag and went to bed, this time taking greater care to prevent my sleeping bag from getting wetter than it already was.
Don't come around here no more,
Bringing me all of your bad rain.
Can't you see I've got troubles of my own.
I ain't got time to be messing with all of your bad rain,
Why in the world can't you just leave that stuff alone?