AT Day 039: Tuesday May 16, 2023

Mile 596.5 + 19.5  miles /31.4  km

Total Distance Hiked: 616 miles /991 km

Camp – VA Route 611 – Jenny Knob Shelter – VA 698/ /Prince Ridge Road – VA 606/ Kimberling Creek – Trent’s Grocery – Dusnal Falls – Dismal Creek

A: 3133 ft/ 956 m  D:3750 ft/ 1144 m

One of the advantages of being close to the Interstate is reliable phone services. This morning I checked the weather and the prediction for morning thunderstorms had been revised. The rain was predicted to ease by 8am then a couple of dry hours before the afternoon thunderstorms return. So we had a late start breaking camp when the rain eased.  Getting out of warm and dry clothes into wet, cold and smelly clothes is never easy. I found the best way is to do it quickly, and don’t think about it. At least it wasn’t cold this morning. Hammer waited till the last minute to put his cold wet shirt on. Memories of hiking in Washington on tge PCT were flooding back to him.  We were on our way around 8 am. 

We wore our wet weather gear because the vegetation was so wet and we were hoping that the wet clothes we were wearing will dry while we are hiking. It didn’t take too long before we were boiling inside and had to take the wet weather  gear off. It was quite pleasant hiking even though the humidity was close to 100%.  The trees dripped almost like a light shower but not enough to get wet.  The fact that it wasn’t raining made for quite pleasant hiking. The trail alternated between leaf litter and soft underfoot to muddy and slippery. The risk of falling was constant, as the leaf litter was covering wet slippery clay underneath. It felt like walking on ice.

Less then an hour from leaving camp the sky opened in the rain returned.  Not what was predicted but not too bad at first. We had umbrellas and they did a good job. As it was so humid it’s just not comfortable wearing wet weather gear. We were passed by a hiker wearing  a full rain proof poncho specially designed to covering him and his pack. He must have been boiling inside.  

The trail went up and then it went down,  kind of pretty much what it does, never leaving the green tunnel.  We walked through one section of forest that felt like a sauna or a steam bath.  The mist was so thick, it was so humid and warm and  the rain felt like someone had left the sprinkler on. Not unpleasant but you know it’s still raining. 

We were running low on water so we made a decision to stop at the next shelter which would have been around lunch time anyhow.  The rain had continued to increase so it was a good stop to stop for a break and reset.  When we got to the shelter,  there were quite a few hikers there already. Some were just leaving having stayed there overnight. We met the hiker who camped near us last night, his trail name was  Hollywood. He was from Idaho and his name came from him making a couple of really bad movies. Everyone was in the same sort of mood. Resigned to the rain and happy that it wasn’t cold. Some people made the decision that they’re going to call it a day and stop at the shelter.  It was only 11.30 am. Others decided to push on to the next road, call for a shuttle and exit the trail for an overnight stay in a comfortable bed.  Our plan to  cook lunch and then move on didn’t quite work out. The gas bottle just wouldn’t connect to the stove so we ended up having cold soaked rice and noodles for lunch. Not the most palatable  but anyhow we managed to eat.   Hammer thought the gas bottle nozzle was somehow displaced.

It was almost 1pm when we decided to push on and leave the shelter. There is a grocery store, Trent’s Grocery,  a few miles along and just slightly off the trail where we will stop and get a new gas bottle and maybe something to eat.  The sky had brightened a little and there were even shadows visible when we left the shelter.  So the sun was shining somewhere. Briefly, this made for much more pleasant hiking conditions.  Every time we had phone service we would connected to check the  weather and everytime it was something different. But one constant prediction was afternoon thunderstorms with lightening. 

During the five minutes the sun was shining, I saw this beauty ❤️

This prediction was correct. Before we got to the road to Trent’s Grocery, the wind picked up and skies opened with thunder and some lightening.  The umbrella kept the shoulders and head dry everything else was soaking wet. The rain burst lasted about half an hour and then moved on. A patch of blue sky appeared ever so briefly.

We reached the road and were so happy to find some amazing trail magic and a couple of hikers we’d met at the shelter at lunch. The trail magic was provided by Kent  who was supporting his wife Patty who’s through hiking. A chat with Kent,  a can of Pepsi and a bag of chips made our world feel a little bit better. Kent’s wife Patty has been on trail for 2 months and in that time she has spent only 10 nights sleeping on trail. The rest of the time was in towns or hostels offering comfortable beds. She is slack packing mostly, with Kent meeting her at the various road crossings. There is clearly many ways ‘to do’ the AT. Hike your own hike I guess.  

Trent’s grocery was a 15 minute walk off trail. We walked with Hollywood and Jaeger, whom we’ve met a couple of weeks ago.  We found a gas canister and also decided to stay for a burger and a milkshake. Such a treat after our cold and uncooked pasta lunch.  While we were at the grocery store another storm front passed over. We felt pretty good to have missed more buckets of rain falling from the sky. 

Back on trail after 4pm – the skies looked clear and we were optimistic that the rain was behind us. We hiked along the appropriately named Dismal Creek, bypassing  the detour to Dismal Falls. Everything around us was dark and the ground was sodden. It didn’t take long for the rain to return. This time with a bit more fury, thunder and lightening. We were hiking with Hollywood, a hiker who camped near us last  night.  The rain was unrelenting, this front was not going to pass so quickly. It was after 7pn when we decided to stop and  camp by Dismal Creek. The trail follows the creek for quite some time so it was clear that we were destined to complete this mostly dismal day  camped by an appropriately named creek. The tent was sodden from last night so putting it up in pouring rain didn’t make it any worse.  Everything was wet except our sleeping bag and sleep clothes. The sleeping mats once inflated were like a float insulating us from the sodden tent floor. So nice to get out of our  wet clothes, into dry clothes and  get horizontal in a warm and dry sleeping bag. We pray that the prediction of a clear sunny day tomorrow comes true. 

Dismal view hefore getting to camp.