Nasty weather today. I didn’t feel much like writing in my journal when I arrived at the shelter, so I’m writing this entry on the night of the 28th. Often I write about two or three days at one sitting since most evenings I have very little energy to write, so excuse the verb tense errors I make while failing to consistently manage the past and the present.
I left the shelter this morning around 11:00. I messed about in my sleeping bag for a couple hours as waves of October rain passed in the cold morning. My mood matched the gray day. After packing all of my gear, I decided to make a quick pit stop at the privy. I was disappointed to find that the privy had no roof and no walls. A toilet sat on a wooden box in an open grove. I thought of waiting for the next privy, but the urge was too strong. I sat on the wet, exposed pot in the cold rain and gritted my teeth for a few cold minutes in the wind and rain. Before leaving the shelter, I griped about the privy in the shelter register.
I ate nearly all of the breakfast food that I had in my pack this morning. I only had 19 miles to hike today, and I knew that the rain would fall and the wind would blow all day. I filled my stomach to remove one reason why I might have to stop hiking and take a break in the miserable weather. I loaded my pockets with snacks so I could eat while I walked.
As I said, the rain and the wind ranged all day. Water stood ankle deep on much of the trail and the once innocent stream crossings had become dangerous knee deep fords. I trudged through the water in my shoes and socks, slogging the heavy trail runners through muddy valleys and mountains.
The wind blew hard and cold from seemingly every direction, including straight up from the ground. The cold gusts found their way into every opening of my clothing, blowing down my shirt neck and up my sleeves. I kept moving to stay warm, but my fingers ached from the biting cold. I was only comfortable when hiking uphill, when I was really using my muscles. On down hills, flat trail, and gradual climbs, my body has become so efficient at hiking that I don’t generate any heat from movement. My heart doesn’t pump faster, my limbs become cold and stiff. I exaggerated my movements to try and stay warm, but I was cold for most of the day.
I sought refuge from the weather in a fully enclosed shelter on Chestnut Ridge. The shelter was once a building on an old farm. It had stone walls and a tin roof that leaked rain. There was a fireplace and two tables in addition to several wooden bunks. I was tempted to stay the night, but I decided to leave shortly after arriving. The last nine miles of the day passed much more quickly than the first ten. The first half of the day took four hours, a very long time for ten miles. The weather and hills slowed me down to a pace I haven’t achieved since Maine. When I left the shelter, I crossed the mountaintops on a long, exposed ridge. Yellow and brown grasses were all I could see in the fog, or was I in the clouds. The wind ripped through the bald areas as though they were Midwestern plains. My poles became vital as I fought to keep balance on the muddy trail. Gusts of wind would catch my pack and spin me around on my planted feet.
Location: Unnamed Shelter
I arrived at the shelter just before dark, having raced to beat the dark. Druid and Rising Sun were already in their sleeping bags and were cooking in the shelter. I was soaked, head to toe. My pack was wet, my clothes, hair, and body all wet, but the gear inside my pack was dry. Not because of my blaze-orange pack cover, but because I put two trash bags inside my pack and I placed everything inside those bags. I wish I had thought of the concept sooner. All of this time I’ve been dealing with wet clothes and a wet sleeping bag. Druid suggested the idea days ago. My inexperience shows yet again, even this late in the hike.
I didn’t even know where to start while unpacking and setting up my bed, but eventually I was wearing dry clothes and cooking from my sleeping bag. I cooked two dinners, a Mountain House meal and a four cheese mashed potato side. I bundled up in my sleeping bag and listened to some of game five of the World Series, but I was asleep before I knew it, tired after a cold, wet, and long day.