Day 2 – Tuesday
To Clyde Smith Shelter (Mile 10)
Ok, so I got a little wet last night, hardly slept a wink, and nearly rubbed a hole in my socks trying to keep my feet warm, but I survived the night and was still excited about the day ahead. I don’t remember what time we all agreed to wake up and get moving, but I do remember that we all slept in much later than we had planned. The day before had been a long one, the night wasn’t very restful for any of us, and the fact that it was still pitch dark and raining made the choice to sleep in an easy one. Eventually, though, it was time to get up and get moving. The rain had subsided enough for us to get packed up, have some breakfast, and get moving toward our destination for the day—The Clyde Smith Shelter.
It would be an 8.5-mile day with the first five miles consisting of a 2,400+ foot descent. The next 3.5 miles would include a climb of nearly 1,000 feet before descending about 500 feet on the final approach to the shelter.
During the hike that day I had time to think about what had contributed to me getting wet the night before. Clearly, my tarp was too high, but there was a reason for that. Late in my preparations for the trip, I decided to purchase a 2T’s Hammock Chair from Dutchware. I still needed a pack cover, and I was also interested in a way to get my gear up off the ground at night. I also had grand visions of lounging around in it now and then while on the trail (I did get to use it for a few short post-lunch naps). Well, the problem was that I had never gotten around to really testing it out. I knew I was going to hang it between my hammock and my tarp, and I had done that a few times in the backyard, but I obviously hadn’t dialed in the setup as well as I could have. The end result was that on the first night I set the gear sling up too high above my hammock and the tarp too high above the gear sling which meant that when it rained, I got wet.
I guess while I am in the poor preparation confessional, I’ll also admit that I had not really tested my gear in heavy rain. I knew that I should but never did (too hard to run outside in the rain when you can just stay in the house). There were a couple of times where I slept in the backyard during some light rain. And once or twice I left it set up in some heavy rain while I retreated to the dryness of the house. During those times everything remained dry, and I guess that was a good enough test for me. But, admittedly, I could have done more in this area, and should have done more in this area.
So the combination of those two things—the late addition of the 2T’s Hammock Chair as a gear sling and the lack of testing in heavy rain—resulted in me getting wet on the first night. But, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in the rain and would know how to set things up to avoid getting wet should it rain again. And that was a good thing because the rain on the first night was barely a drizzle when compared to the rain we got on night number two. But, I’m getting ahead of myself now.
Our plan for the day was to skip breakfast and hike about two miles to Ash Gap where we’d stop to get some water and have something to eat. According to Guthook, there was a piped spring 0.1 miles off the trail, but it was the longest and steepest 0.1 miles you could imagine. The water was flowing well though, and we were able to top off our water very quickly, have a quick bite to eat (Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy for me), and continue on toward the Clyde Smith Shelter.
It drizzled most of the day, but nothing too heavy. I knew I needed to get to camp early so that I could get my hammock and under quilt set up as soon as possible so that they could dry out some. Basically, everything was damp now, and Nemo and I were already planning to hang our bags in the shelter that night to let them dry out.
We did end up making it to the shelter with plenty of daylight left. As I mentioned earlier, Big Old Mustard intended to sleep in as many shelters as he could so he quickly found and claimed a spot. Mango wasn’t feeling well and decided to say in the shelter as well. It was good we got there as early as we did because the shelter was small and it started to fill up quickly as the afternoon wore on.
Nemo and I found a couple of nice spots for our hammocks. And just like the shelter, we watched the spaces around us fill up as darkness approached. Based on the previous night’s experience, and the fact that it had been raining all day, I paid careful attention to my setup that afternoon. I set up the gear hammock so that it would rest just a few inches above my ridgeline once it was loaded with gear. I set up the tarp so that it was nearly touching the gear hammock and pulled the sides down very tight and close to the hammock. Once I felt satisfied with my setup, it was time for some supper.
There was an excellent water source nearby, so I topped off my water once again and made my way back to the shelter where several other folks were seeking a dry place to cook as well. We had an enjoyable conversation with a thru-hiker from London, named Freebird, who had carved out a spot in the shelter near Mango and Big Old Mustard. Ironically, a there was another group of section hikers chatting with us who were from the same area as members of the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Apparently, before anyone had ever heard of the band, some of these guys had seen them play at their High School. Being from London, Freebird, hardly knew who they were and barely knew that Freebird was a song. We didn’t hold that against him, which says a lot about our character seeing that we are from Alabama.
After supper it was dark, and since it was too wet for a campfire once again, there was nothing left to do but go to bed. I had watched all these videos of Shug going to bed as soon as the sun had set, and now here I was doing the same thing—maybe I was really a hammock camper after all! In addition to getting wet the night before, my feet had also gotten cold. So before climbing into the hammock, I changed into my sleep attire and made sure to add a second pair of socks.
Fortunately, my hammock and under quilt had, indeed, dried out. Everything (and I mean everything) was still damp, but nothing was wet. As I was climbing into my hammock, I realized how tired I was from the lack of sleep the night before combined with the day’s hike. The rain was getting ridiculous at this point. Not only had it rained almost all day, but it was also beginning to pick up, and it didn’t seem that there was an end in sight.
For better or worse, I had decent cell coverage that night which meant I kept checking the weather. Every time I checked, the rain was supposed to stop in the next fifteen minutes or so, but it never did. It rained all night. It rained so much all I could do was shake my head and laugh. In fact, I found myself waking up and doing that multiple times throughout the night while peering under my tarp expecting to see Noah float by. While my tarp did an admirable job protecting me from the rain, I still found it hard to sleep. I did rest better than the night before, but I knew something had to give or else I’d be exhausted by the end of the week.
Fortunately, the rain had stopped by morning, and none of the dangerous animals had escaped as the ark passed during the night. We gathered together at the shelter once again to cook and eat. But, over breakfast, Big Old Mustard requested a pretty significant change of plans for the day. And, honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.
To be continued…