Weather or not, life is grand on the
is one thing that we cannot control, at least not yet.
On the appalachian Trail, weather can make or break
a hike. But it is always there, and if you learn to
live with it, even the bad stuff, you will always have
something to smile about or share a story about. If
you would like to submit a story about the weather experiences
you have witnessed as you traveled or camped along the
Appalachian Trail, send an email with the information
by David A. Grim (JASH - Just A Section Hiker)
When I think about rain, the first thing that comes
to mind is the rain I experienced living in Louisiana.
The rain can come down so hard in that part of the country
you literally can't see the hood ornament on the front
of your car. Wild Cajun drivers have been known to have
head-on collisions when driving in these heavy monsoons
by driving down narrow streets with their heads out
the window for visibility. They physically bump heads.
The second thing I think about when it comes to rain
is the Summit Venture. The Summit Venture was a large
seagoing ship that tried to navigate the waters of Tampa
Bay Florida in just such rainy weather. The ship knocked
out the center span of the southbound lane of a four-lane
bridge sending a busload of unlucky people to their
deaths in the murky waters of the bay. If you travel
south across the new Sunshine Skyway today, look west
and you'll see the remains of the old bridge.
As I hiked North along a stretch of the AT just past
Unaka Mountain in September of '96, I kept thinking
about rain. It had been raining on and off all day.
As do all hikers, I had a dilemma on my hands. Should
I get rain-wet or sweat-wet? I elected sweat-wet and
kept hiking up the mountain with a limited view because
of my backpacker's poncho. Just after the eerie green
light on the top of Unaka Mountain, I began happily
cruising down the backside of Unaka on my way to Cherry
The rain let up so I could take a dry water break,
which is probably some kind of oxymoron like military
intelligence or something. Anyhow, as soon as I put
my poncho away for the umteenth time that day, it began
to rain again. On came the poncho and I hiked on with
only the sound of rain pattering on the leaves of the
ever so green trees about me and the swish of my wet
poncho against my body. Being low on water I began to
worry when I would cross water again. As a hiker I am
constantly thirsty and water is the only beverage that
does it for me. Finally, the rain quit and I found water.
Hurricane Fran was coming my way and I had been out
section hiking long enough this trip to not know if
the rain was the hurricane coming my way or just normal
rainy weather in September. I was watered up and having
just crossed the highest point for the day, according
to the liar's legend at the bottom of my map, was ready
to get to the shelter and off my feet. As usual, The
AT had other things in mind.
I picked up my pace from about 2 to 4 miles per hour.
The Trail had become relatively level and I wanted to
be out of the impending witches brew of weather. At
first I smelled the change in weather and felt the wind
pick up. The trees began to sway vigorously back and
forth and the thunderstorm began to move in. To add
insult to injury, with my poncho on, I couldn't get
to my water easily. My pack was relatively dry and I
wanted, at all cost, to keep it that way.
Suddenly I heard thunder and saw lightening all about
me. Let's see how does that work? For every second you
can count from the flash of lightening until you hear
the thunder is a mile. Flash, I began counting, one
thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three
I repeated the process until I couldn't even say one
before the thunder would sound. I'm a fatalist and don't
believe in mother nature but do believe in God. I believe
that your days are numbered and you can't leave this
life one minute before or one second later than HE has
determined. Just to play it safe I prayed as I hiked
figuring he may be busy and wanted to be sure if it
wasn't my time yet, I wouldn't fall into the oversight
category when entering heaven. Did you know if you're
alone and laugh out loud at yourself in the wilderness,
nobody can hear you?
With each step I became thirstier and yet was surrounded
by water. The rain began to pour down now. This was
Summit Venture quantity rain and I was dying of thirst.
Just about then I noticed something I had overlooked
with my limited visibility, a pocket of water forming
in the crook of my poncho covered arm as I hiked. What
the hay, I drank from the pocket. As fast as I could
drink it was refilled. Yep, who says prayer doesn't
work?? You do have to keep your eyes open though.
Did you ever wonder why The Trail looks like a small
riverbed in places? I found out. As the rain poured
down I saw places that the map indicated would be okay
to camp that looked like lakes. As I hiked up a small
hill, down came a chameleon floating on a log in the
torrent. Yep, he was going white water rafting today
and I could tell he wanted off in the worst way. My
gortex lined boots, designed to keep me dry, were filled
with water inside and out. I didn't have one dry spot
on my body under my sweat-wet poncho by the time I pulled
into Cherry Gap Shelter.
My first order of business upon arriving at the shelter
was to hang up all of my wet clothes to dry. As I sat
in the shelter, alone except for a ground squirrel and
wearing nothing but a smile, I momentarily considered
changing my Trail handle to "Buck Naked".
I knew that wouldn't do though because I could just
see myself meeting someone on The Trail and having them
ask my name. Yes sir, my name is "Buck Naked".
Nope I decided to leave bad enough alone. When people
ask me who I am, I tell them I'm Just A Section Hiker
or unimaginatively shortened to JASH.
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Last Modified 10/18/04