Before I get started, here are some basic recommendations that are probably common knowledge, but I wanted to list them anyway.
1. When you arrive at your camp, put your tent up first. Pick a spot that avoids rain runoff as much as possible. Don’t pick a mud soaked spot if you can help it, the muddy wet ground could indicate a very low spot that will collect water in a heavy rainfall.
A grassy spot is great, a spot with leaves is good.. a bare spot will splatter your tent with mud in a driving rain.
Look up and avoid overhead dead branches that could land on your tent in heavy winds.
Then put you stuff either in your tent or next to it.
2. Then find the spring and filter your water.
3. Keep a full water bottle near your tent in the event rain forces you to take cover in the tent. Then you’ll have water to cook with under your vestibule.
4. Change out of you wet clothes when you get to camp and into your dry set. Better yet, try to wear your wet clothes dry, i.e. try to use your body heat to dry your clothes. This is assuming better weather and dew point. ALWAYS keep one set of dry clothes to change into and try to protect at all costs!
5. You may have to put your previous day’s wet clothes on in the morning to hike in, suck it up. Don’t use your only dry set of clothes – remember – keep that for camp.
6. Don’t put on dry socks when you get to camp and then put your feet into your wet boots, or you’ll have another pair of wet socks. One technique is to cover your dry socks with some sort of plastic bag, then put on your wet boots.
7. Your colorful, new, and expensive pack rain cover probably will not keep all the water off or out of your pack. Try using a large, thick plastic industrial trash bag inside your pack to keep your sleeping bag/clothes bag/mattress wrapped in. Also, think about getting a box of 5 each 2.5 gallon extra large zip-lock bags from the Dollar Store as an extra layer of waterproofing for your stuff. Use one of these large bags in the top pocket of your pack where you’re probably carrying a lot of you electronics and nav-aids.
8. Hang your bear bag before it gets dark. Use a cord with a slick finish so it lessens the chances of getting snagged. Think about investing in a bear canister. Heavy, but extremely convenient.
Avoid using a carabiner to attach you bear cord to the little bag with a rock in it you’re trying to toss over a tree branch. The carabiner could get snagged. Just tie a knot. Why are you carrying a carabiner(s) anyway? They just add weight, you’re not rock climbing. Use a knot.
9. Learn a few basic knots, for God’s sake! Isn’t it about time?
10. Bring a large zip lock for your trash.
11. Bring a real fucking map, and hey, try to learn how to read it and locate yourself. You’re in the woods for God’s sake!
12. Buy a longer spoon, so you can get the food out of your freeze dried meal packet without getting food all over your knuckles.
13. Bring a couple of paper towel halves. They come in handy around meal time.
14. Dig out your head lamp before it gets dark.
Pyro, Buff, Purl and I linked up and drove up to Gunny’s on Friday. Gunny and ‘the wife’, had prepared chicken enchiladas, we brought beer and Guac, so we had a little party that evening. Everyone got a bed, I had to sleep on the floor, not sure why I had the floor, since I’m the elder gentleman of the group. That’s the last time that will happen.
Next morning we drove to the hostel where NC 19E crosses near the AT. We camped then had breakfast at the BB that runs the hostel, then took a shuttle to the where the AT crosses the Nolichucky River in Erwin, NC.
The AT here follows the NC/TN border for about 50 miles and goes over several pointless ups and downs (PUDS) culminating with Roan Mountain famous for it’s several balds and higher elevations (@6200 feet).
Just as soon as we started walking, we ran into a torrential downpour that lasted for about an hour. The humidity was, and stayed above 90%, for about 5 out of the 6 hiking days.
We had a few hours of partial sun and I, at least, was able to dry out a bit, before making camp. We had originally planned to do only 5 miles on the first day with a 12 mile second day, but were able to do about 8 miles, leaving about 9 miles for Monday.
Rain on and off for the next 3 days. A quite a bit of rain on Tuesday night, in fact a major storm forcing Buff, Pyro, and Purl to relocate their tents in the dark to higher ground. This was a major undertaking that they performed quite well and very successfully! Bravo to them!
It was a foggy, cold, wet trek up to Roan Mountain. So foggy that we couldn’t see and walked right passed the parking area for day hikers.
Oh yes, we had linked up with another member of our group, Suds, at the Hostel. Suds had driven down from Kansas City, Mo., and although Suds is an experienced hiker, this was his first backpacking trip.
This trip had started out as the backpacking trip from hell – even though we had all been through this kind of weather, the constant muddy and wet tree tunnels, fog, continual drip drip drip from the trees and cooler temps, wet feet, the steep up hill climbs on muddy roots, did I mention mud(?), had turned this trip into as much a mental test as a physical one.
These conditions, unfortunately, took their toll on Suds. But…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…right? So hopefully, Suds’ next trip (if there is a next trip) will benefit from the lessons of this trip. I know I certainly learned a lot about my conditioning, equipment, and what a big baby I am. It was all I could do to suck it up and drive on.
In case you’re wondering where the pictures are, my camera broke on day 2, so…sorry, no pix. Gunny took a lot of photos.
The weather finally started to clear up, just a bit on days 4 and 5, and day 6, the hike out day, was quite pleasant.
Let me sum up. We went backpacking on the AT, it rained every day. We didn’t see anything because we spent all day in a tree tunnel. The balds were socked in fog, except for the last day. The campsites were soaking wet. The last night, we couldn’t even get a good fire going, the wood was so soaked. The 2 or 3 nights prior, we didn’t even try.
And to add to our camping enjoyment, we were using Awol’s AT Guide, and wouldn’t you know it, the site we intended to camp, marked in the guide as having both campsites and plenty of water – HAD NEITHER! So we looked around for over 1 hour, then defeated, turned tail and marched back uphill for a half mile or so to the last place we saw water.
I’m beginning to really hate tree tunnels.
California here I come, right back where I started from!