Heavy Backpack and Heavy Rain

28th May

22.3 miles 

Daleville (728.1) to Bushcamp (750.4)

The weather forecast called for afternoon rain and thunderstorms. I was happy with that. A couple of days ago the forecast called for a weeks worth of solid rain. A little afternoon rain or a thunderstorm was nothing, or so I thought.

A big breakfast and then we packed our bags ready to hit the trail. I bought way to much food and the result was a grossly overweight backpack. It weighed almost the same as Delicate Flower’s backpack. His base weight is around 10-15 pounds heavier than mine.

The first steps were slow and laboured and things didn’t improve as the day progressed. I’m used to carrying much less weight so my body was not impressed with me today. Anybody hiking the Appalachian Trail with a heavy backpack is making their life harder than it needs to be. My life was hard today.

After only about two miles of hiking Delicate Flower went off ahead. I didn’t see him for the rest of the day. Small hills felt like torture for my body. Large hills nearly killed me.

I stopped to eat lunch on top of a large hill. A young guy with an ultra light set up hiked past me, then another. I realised they were slack packing this section. Slack packing is common on the Appalachian Trail. A hiker will pay someone to shuttle them to a part of the trail then they hike a section of trail returning to their accomodation only carrying a Day pack. Hence the light backpacks. I’m not against slack packing, I think it’s a great idea, I just prefer to be on the trail, rather than in towns.

The weather stayed clear until mid afternoon. Then the heavens opened  up in a biblical downpour. The trail became a river. It reminded me of monsoonal storms at home. I wondered if anyone might be building an ark. Even with my umbrella that has served me so well, I was getting wet. A poor turtle was sitting on the middle of the trail. There was so much water I almost stood on it. I moved it a little bit off the trail in case any other hiker cane along. This rain was crazy. Even with the umbrella, every part of me was soaked. I started to chafe between the legs but could not stop to rest. All I could do was embrace the brutality.

There is some crazy part of me that loved this extreme weather. This is my third 2000 plus mile thru hike. I’ve faced many challenges with the weather. Extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme altitude, extreme rain, extreme snow and extremely dry deserts. I love extremes. I don’t know why, I just do. Possibly, things like this keep me on the trail hiking when other hikers quit. Maybe it’s the feeling of being alive, really alive. I shall have to dwell on these thoughts a little longer, then I might have an answer.

After an hour the rain stopped. I could see the vistas for a change. Low cloud lingered in the distant valleys. For the most part of the afternoon the trail followed the Blue Ridge Parkway. Despite being a long weekend there was little traffic. What little traffic there was didn’t stop to take in the views.

As evening approached I set up camp on a high ridge, alone. I’m not sure where my hiking buddy Delicate Flower is, probably nice and dry in a shelter somewhere. It wasn’t long after I set up my tent that another rain shower passed.


You might be interested in:

The Complete Pacific Great Trail Guide
The Complete Continental Divide Trail Guide
The Complete Appalachian Trail Guide
Lightweight Hiking Gear List


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12 Responses

  1. Ray

    You seem to be wearing an AT-plaque around your neck. A necessity or just for the heck of it?

    Reply
  2. Mara K

    What I have long been wondering having read through your (and two other) blogs of the PCT and now the AT … Noone ever wears a rainponcho. Is it out of fashion, or are there any other reasons?
    In Europe it is a very common gear. I use it in heavy rain and I am quite fond of it, because you can put it over your backpack, and everything stays dry, except your feet and lower legs.

    Reply
  3. mjirving

    One of my favorite days on the PCT was hiking south to Charleton Lake through a burn in a deluge of heavy rain, a river in the trail and lightning cracking all around. I felt ALIVE! (And thankfully stayed alive). My 110-degree August hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon was pretty incredible too. My daughter came out of one of the enclosed pit toilets and exclaimed, “It’s so much cooler out here!” ?

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I have two loops on my shoulder strap. I feed the umbrella through them and it sits in an elastic pocket that is standard on the Osprey pack. One of the loops has a toggle so I can adjust the umbrella up or down depending on the wind or if I’m going uphill or downhill. The system works ok, but it’s still a work in progress.

      Reply

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