NOTE: You can see me tell this story by clicking on the arrow. It was recorded by the Viking in July 2017 during a 100-mile section hike in Pennsylvania and posted on his U-tube channel called “Between the Blazes.”
Or you can read it, below.
I introduced myself as “Lucky” because that’s my trail name.
To see more Thru-Hiker stories [“Mind Game”] go here.
July 1, 2015, was Day 137 of my hike from Georgia to Maine and as the day wore on it became obvious that Maine had not received the memo, the memo saying summer had arrived.
It had rained the night before, hard at times, but by 5 a.m., when I got up to dress, eat, and go hiking, the rain had tapered off to a sprinkle, more like a mist. I had no rain jacket –- I had lost it. I had also mailed my winter clothes home, but maybe it wouldn’t matter.
The trail I hiked that morning went over three mountains, all of them above the tree line: Saddleback, The Horn, and Saddleback Junior. Before I got to the top of Saddleback it had begun to rain again, softly at first and then harder. And then it began to get colder. The wind made it uncomfortably cold.
The higher I climbed, the harder it rained, the faster the wind blew, and the colder I felt. By the time I reached a series of balds on top of the mountains it was raining sideways. And was that sleet I felt? What had been a fairly warm, wet day had turned nasty. And, I repeat, this was July 1st.
The wind was killing me. I thought about leaving the trail and making a bee line for the trees below, anything to get out of the wind. But you can get lost that way — been there, done that. I decided to stay on the trail unless I started shaking all over, and keep on hiking as fast as I could, both to get off the ridge, get back down into the trees, and to generate heat.
When the trail finally went back down, into the trees, it didn’t help a lot. I was out of most of the wind, but I couldn’t go as fast, and generate the heat I needed, because I had to work my way down a long series of rock hops and ledges. I was not able to speed up until I reached the bottom of Saddleback Junior.
I need to find the shelter quickly and get out of my wet clothes. I was so cold. I knew I was close and around every bend in the trail I expected to see it. I didn’t stop until the trail turned back uphill.
No way I was going back to the ridge, back above the trees.
I had just passed a privy next to the trail –they build privies next to the trail in Maine– so I turned around, went back, went inside, and made myself at home. Finally, I was out of the wind and rain.
I stripped off my wet shirts and put on dry ones as well as a dry, insulated jacket, and dry socks. I couldn’t change pants, I wasn’t carrying a second pair.
I ate lunch.
And then I got comfortable and went to sleep.
Almost two hours passed before a knock on the privy door woke me. The rain had stopped and the wind had died. A south-bound hiker, a woman, wanted to use the facility.
Of course, I said, and I quickly began packing up. When I came out of the privy she asked me:
“Why didn’t you go on to the shelter?”
“Where is the shelter?”
“About 100 yards up the trail,” she said.
Coming Friday: Paddling The Neuse, Part 1: River Angels