Greeter Two here. In late 2018, I made a pronouncement to myself that I would be on the trail every month in 2019. January went well. I hiked for two days through the Delaware Water Gap area with friends, staying overnight in a nearby hostel. Then in February, life happened. This time, the accident was in my own driveway, not anywhere exotic or far away. I tripped over my own stupid feet, fell on my side and fractured 3 ribs. Although the pain decreased as quickly as it came on, I could not wear a backpack and had to cancel out on joining a friend in late March as she finished her flip flop in Virginia (she finished – yeah!).
In early May, I ran a 10 mile race, did well, and still had no plans to backpack yet. Little plans kept seeming to pop up, interfering with my ability to plan a week or longer backpack trip. Then I realized I had an 8 day period with NO commitments. The only major issue was the weather prediction — rain, rain, and more rain for the first two to three days I would be on the trail.
Having already completed from Waynesboro, Virginia to Cheshire, Massachusetts, my plan was to hike from Waynesboro south to Buena Vista (60 miles) or Glasgow (80 miles). I got the brilliant idea to put my car at mile 60, for an easy food resupply, and in case I wanted to end my trip early. Due to the rain, I then decided to hike the Buena Vista miles first, northbound, and then hike from Waynesboro to Buena Vista (60 miles) southbound, thinking that parts of the second section had more rocks and rock scrambling, a bad combination with rainy weather. I also decided to test out a new purchase, a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent, that allowed for a quick set up in the rain. It was heavier by a pound than my usual tent, a Nemo Hornet 1P (3.5 versus 2.5 pounds) but I really wanted my gear and me to be dry. Plus it would give me extra space to move around in, if caught in the tent during a major storm.
So I arranged for the shuttles, and off I went.
Day 1, Friday, 1.7 miles
Glasgow to John Hollow Shelter
I drove to Buena Vista from South Jersey, and parked at Long Mountain Wayside. While waiting for my shuttle, a number of thru hikers crossed the highway and then continued into the woods. Days earlier, there had been trail magic at this location, so they were disappointed to learn I had no trail magic. I did offer an extra Gatorade to one thru hiker, Airbud, who gladly accepted, drank it up and passed me back the empty bottle. My shuttle driver arrived, and by 4 PM, I was on the trail.
Just 1.7 miles later, I was at the John Hollow Shelter, where I planned to camp. It seemed early, but it was very hot, and decided to stick with my original plans. Two thru hikers were already asleep in the shelter, and several other hikers greeted me, offering to make more room in the shelter for me. I declined, and found a spot to set up my tent. While cooking dinner, I chatted with those awake, learning that 2 others were also from New Jersey, including one thru hiker, Grumber, 71 years old. Grumber reported that he was doing well, despite some projections that he would not make it, and asked me to pass that message onto a friend at our local REI store. Soon after, another thru hiker, then a Ridge Runner arrived, and set up tents near me. The Ridge Runner counted food bags and “heads”, was not happy with the food bags being kept in the shelter, and was under impressed by my food bag hanging attempt, but gave me credit for trying. By 7:30 PM, the shelter and campsite areas were quiet, and I was in my tent, relaxing and soon asleep.
Day 2, Saturday, 18.3 miles
John Hollow Shelter to Brown Mtn Creek Shelter
The rain began sometime that morning and continued most of the day, sometimes drizzling and sometimes pouring. By noon, I had hiked 9 miles and stopped at the Punchbowl Shelter. Soon, other hikers arrived with an assortment of ways to backpack in the rain. Two thru hikers used umbrellas, several went without wearing rain gear, opting to just get wet, and one had a rain skirt. One or two thru hikers were opting to just stay put for the day and night, while others were just taking breaks. After a while, I opted to continue hiking in the pouring rain, but hoping for sunshine.
Almost 9 miles later, with half a mile to go before that night’s destination, I attempted to cross the Brown Mountain Creek. Moving slowly from rock to rock, the water level was high and moving fast due to the rains. I have never been good at creek crossings, always hesitate – if only briefly, and have slipped before. Sure enough, I get a third way across, slip and fall into the water, belly side up, with my pack in the water. There isn’t enough water for it to be dangerous, but my body and pack were caught between several rocks, making it harder to get up. When I did get up, I debated briefly about rock jumping the rest of the way, and opted to just wade through it. When I reached the opposite bank, I emptied the water out of the my shoes and from my pack cover. Soon enough, I reached the shelter, with cleaner but damp hiking pants. Multiple hikers were already there, and several tents set up. My rain gear & system had held up, even with the dip in the creek – a North Face rain jacket with pit zippers for me, my phone in a plastic bag, in a separate fanny belt, hidden under the coat, usually partially open, a bright orange pack cover, and my sleeping gear and camp clothes in a compactor bag, as double protection. The rain had stopped temporarily by then, so I set up my tent, prepared dinner and chatted with the others.
Day 3, Sunday, 1.8 plus 5 miles
Brown Mtn Creek Shelter to Long Mountain Wayside
The Big Agnes tent held up well that night in the rain, pouring at times. I was up and out of camp by 7 AM, putting my wet tent into a separate compactor bag to keep it from getting my other gear wet, and was back at my car by 8:15 AM. Glasgow to Long Mountain Wayside – 20 miles – done! Unfortunately, I was beginning to question my plans. My legs were tired and I wondered if I really could hike 60 more miles in 4 or 5 days. While waiting for the shuttle, some thru hikers passed by and asked me to take some of their trash – five empty soda cans. I agreed and tossed them in the back of my car (later to learn this was a big mistake). Originally, I had planned to switch out tents, to my lighter Nemo Hornet, but decided leaving the wet Big Agnes tent in the car for five days might cause it to get moldy. Ugh. Wet tents are so heavy!