30 JUN 14
Roan Mountain trip: Day 2
Clyde Smith Shelter-Roan High Knob Shelter
Miles today: 7.9
Storms have come!
Rains wash the earth away
Dark skies fall down
Into another day.-Enya “Storms In Africa”
Woke up at 0555. The clouds finally ran out of water, at least for now. Everything I own is damp. Tried to dry my socks, but with the condensation from inside my tent that was an exercise in futility. The bottom of my sleeping bag somehow got wet as well. My shoes were just as wet as they were when I’d taken them off yesterday. My insoles were moist. Thank God I brought my Crocs- I couldn’t imagine having to keep these wet shoes on for a minute longer than I have to.
S L O W L Y started packing up and getting ready to go. Guess what’s worse than putting on wet shoes? Putting on wet socks, then putting on wet shoes. Hmmm, should I stay on the trail or should I go dry out for a day. Dry shoes and dry clothes sound good. I’m a wimp.
Trudged down the hill to fetch some water, made some coffee, and after gulping down my mandatory handful of morning pills, halfheartedly donned my pack, bid farewell to my shelter mates and set off for Hughes Gap at 0800. It was a steep climb back up to the AT. Here goes nothing. On the way, since I was the first person on the trail for the day apparently, my face was assaulted every 50 feet by spider webs. There are few feelings in the world as gross as getting a faceful of web. At Little Rock Knob (mi 369, elev 4918′) I stopped for a breakfast of peanut butter crackers and was treated to a view of a valley. The walk up was through a good number of rocky rhododendron tunnels. Clouds overhead were trying to break, and I saw a sliver of blue sky (yes!), but the lower clouds were still scuttling by, quickly obscuring the view.
Checked my voicemail, and yes, I had left my keys in the car. Shannon said to not panic, they’ll hang on to them for me. Good call on telling me not to panic, because I was already tallying up how much it would cost to not only get a locksmith to get me in my truck, but the probable necessary overnight stay as well. My phone call to the B&B went unanswered after 9 rings. Not wanting to dawdle, I set out for my next waypoint. The walk down to Hughes Gap wasn’t bad, all things considered. Took a 15 minute break down by the road at 10:00 to readjust my pack. I was 6 miles between water points with an uphill climb to Ash Gap, but I could top off there before the looming ass-kicker up Roan Mountain. My legs were tiring, but not as bad as they were after my trip to McAfee Knob back in March.
On the way up from Hughes Gap, I noticed 4 dead mice strewn along the middle of the trail about 20 feet apart. That was strange. What made it stranger was the fact that they were all missing their…heads. What kind of animal has a blood lust for mouse heads? Zombie owls, that’s what. Fear the undead…
Made it to Ash Gap (mi 374.2, elev 5350′) around 1230, but not before I summited Beartown Mountain, which was an absolutely overgrown stretch of trail. The dense growth was so high and thick at times the trail was barely visible, and my walk seemed more like bushwhacking than anything. Not only did I put on my bug headnet, but I also put my rain jacket on backwards to protect my arms from the brush. Not so much the brush, but mainly so I don’t get a little bloodsucking vampire tick on my skin. Hello? Can we get a weed eater out here?
Set out my Tyvek sheet by a long fallen tree trunk to prepare my lunch & dry a few things out. My Platypus bladder was empty, and I had a swallow of water left in my Fred Water bottle, so I gulped the rest of that & headed down the blue blaze trail to the spring. What a freaking steep climb down. Why does every trip to a spring seem like your climbing down a 200 foot ladder?
Came to a little runoff area and lost the trail. Saw two vertical blue blazes, but didn’t see anywhere the trail turned. It seemed to peter out. I walked around for a minute or so trying to locate it but couldn’t. Checked my GPS position on Guthook’s map and…well, this is right where the spring is supposed to be. Bullshit. There isn’t any spring here- it’s just runoff, not even that. A trickle. As much rain as had fallen in the last 3 days, there HAD to be more water than this.
Soon it dawned on me- I’m screwed. SCREWED. There wasn’t even enough seeping out to get the mouth of my bottle in the water. All the air seemed to leave my body in a rush. I’m out of water until I get to the Roan High Knob shelter, 2 miles away and 1000 feet up in the middle of the day. I felt beaten. Why oh WHY did I drink the last drop of my water???? I swore to never drink all the water until I’m actually AT the source and filtering water. Damn, just damn.
I thought back to the survival shows I love watching so much and wondered “what would Les Stroud or Cody Lundin do”? The next thought I had was “No way am I drinking pee like Bear Grylls” (ROTFLMAO). Then it dawned on me- dig. Dig to get to water. I took my heel and dug a deeper trench that I’d be able to get my bottle into. Problem was, the water was no longer flowing over rocks- it was thick with dirt & sediment. I couldn’t spend the time trying to improve the spring and staying there wasn’t an option either- I had to get up to where water surely was, so I filled as much dirty ass water as I could, which was only 10 ounces before it started spilling back out of the shallowest bottle I had.
Hiked back up to my pack where I figured out a way to filter this sludge. I couldn’t use my buff since that was treated with Permethrin. The only piece of untreated clothing was my white sleeping socks. Oh well that will have to do. I carefully strained the nasty mud water into the Fred bottle, which was still very nasty and undrinkable. Man, this is going to clog the hell out of my Sawyer filter, but here goes nothing. I screwed the Sawyer onto the Fred water bottle, held it over the Platypus bladder, and managed to squeeze out 9 ounces of clear water. What do you know, it worked! The problem of walking up (g)Roan with minimal water was still on my mind, and since I couldn’t waste water cooking food or even eating (causing thirst), I said a quick prayer hoping I don’t die today of dehydration (drama queen, I know!) and set out to attack Roan Mountain. FML. I need water.
Whaddya know. No sooner than I got 100 feet down the trail, it started raining. NO- that is NOT a funny joke Mother Nature, and I don’t appreciate you MOCKING me. “Hey Shannon, you wanted water? HERE’s some water, sucka!”
I hate you, weather.
Stayed the course on the meat grinder up to Roan Mountain. You could see where the old trail went straight up the mountain, and the new trail switchbacked around it. This was greatly appreciated, as I was already relegated to rationing; taking only one sip of water every 10 minutes. The rain was relentless. Closer up the trail I noticed several hearty runoffs coming down and cutting across the trail. Screw it, I thought, I’m gonna get some damn water if this filter will hold out. Dropped my pack, grabbed my bottle, and got a full 16 ounces of clear water. Filtered it into the other bottle, capped it, and gave a triumphant middle finger to no one in particular, and said to hell with whatever bad luck situation I was in. I have water now, and stepped off with renewed energy, Funny how being in a tough situation, unsure of how you’re going to get through it, you are presented with another problem which is actually a blessing in disguise, take advantage of it, and come out on top.
Now I could actually enjoy walking through the spruce and fir forest, which is a magnificent sight. Once I came upon a clearing which I knew was the Cloudland Hotel site, I knew I was close. I didn’t stop to sightsee or venture out to the entire site. I wanted to get to the shelter, and fast.
Around a turn I saw a signpost that said “Shelter” with an arrow pointing to my right. I eagerly ambled up the hill and soon saw the slanting roof of the Roan High Knob shelter- the highest shelter on the Appalachian Trail (mi 376; elev 6275’). Just then I realized that I hadn’t seen a single soul since I left this morning. Suddenly I felt not just alone, but lonely. A weird feeling came over me. I was wet, tired, and feeling unsure of myself. Wanting to be alone was one thing, but the weather and my running out of water and the trek uphill all combined to shake my confidence. I stood outside by the fire pit (it had stopped raining right before I got to the shelter) and tried to get a call out to the B&B. I figured if I could get them to pick me up, I was gonna bail out at Carver’s Gap. It was 2 miles away, but downhill, and I swore if they would agree to pick me up I was leaving.
Maybe I should just take my chances & hike down to Carver’s Gap anyway. There has to be reception there, right? This shelter is very dark and desolate. But what if I get down there and can’t call out? No way can I make the trip back up the mountain. I am not climbing Roan Mountain twice in one day. Sigh, I guess I’m here for the night. The shelter was large enough that I could set up my tent on one side and there would still be room for two more. After I strung up a clothesline and hung up as much wet stuff as I could, I went down to the spring (which was flowing heartily) and traded the runoff water for spring water.
I set up outside for dinner- of a pack of instant mashed potatoes, dehydrated chicken, and green beans I prepackaged last week. A soaked young couple came up an hour later. They looked miserable but seemed bubbly. Just when I thought I was going to wing it solo I have company. The girl was complaining that something was lodged in her pipe and needed a piece of wire to fix it. I snipped off a piece of grating with my Leatherman & gave it to her. She thanked me and asked if I “smoked”. “No, I’m in the military and they frown upon such things”. She said she understood. Chatted with them for a while then they decided to get situated upstairs.Took a few snapshots of the forest. Man, even though it is cloudy & dark & kinda spooky up here, it’s absolutely beautiful. Between my going in and out of the shelter trying to dry my clothes, I noticed they had hung their wet underwear on the pegs outside. Had I not been paying attention, I would have walked right into someone’s soaked skivvies.
Gotta love hiker trash.
I’m off to bed, but not before I walked back outside to polish off the rest of the Starburst in my food bag. The couple upstairs was reading a book to one another (pretty loudly) and they kept moving their crap around. Hey, ever heard of Hiker Midnight? It must be respected! Finally at 2230 I asked them to hold it down a bit so I could get some shut-eye. They apologized & obliged. Oh yeah, earlier we thought we heard a bear off in the woods downhill, so the 2 windows & door were shut for the night.
Last thing I need is a bear to get in the shelter and decide he wants to cuddle.