Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reed's Gap to Humpback Rocks

This turned out not to be one of our most pleasant hikes.  The rain forecast was for 30-40% chance of scattered showers and temperatures about 50.  Since the rain chance was relatively low, we decided to go on.  We only had this hike and one more to have completed the Blue Ridge Parkway section and we were eager to get that done this week.

The plan was to drive Gene to Reed’s Gap where he would start walking north and I would go back to Humpback Rock parking area and hike south.  There are two trails, neither of which are the AT, but both connect to the AT, at this parking area.  In order to get me on the correct trail, we stopped there on our way to Reed’s Gap so Gene could point me in the right direction.  There were no cars in the parking lot, but there was a man cooking breakfast at the picnic table.  He had a backpack, but he just didn’t have the look of a long distance hiker.  I was nervous about him and so was Gene.  We did the cautious thing and both of us went to Reed’s Gap.  Since I have already hiked this section, I was only going about halfway anyway.  Might as well do it from the other end and avoid this person.

We were only about a mile into the hike when the sprinkles started and within a few minutes it was raining hard enough to warrant rain gear.  After putting on our ponchos, we continued on.  The farther we went the rockier it got and the wetter the rocks got.  After about 4 miles, I decided it was time for me to turn around and head back to the car.  Gene, of course, had to go on over Humpback Rocks and down to the parking lot--another 6 miles.  It was a hard, wet day for both of us.  Mine, thankfully, was shorter than his.  Needless to say, there were no views.

By the time I got back to the truck, I was pretty much soaked.  When Gene got to the truck 3 hours after I did, he could only find one dry spot on himself.

Rain gear is always a point of conversation among hikers.  There is nothing that will keep you dry.  Hikers use rain gear to stay warm.  If you put on something that is supposed to be waterproof (even the new waterproof/breathable fabrics) and then take off down the trail, condensation builds up on the inside and you get wet.  I’ve used a poncho for years.  I think it is better ventilated than most rain jackets which helps reduce condensation.  Most people I’ve talked to don’t like a poncho because it is cumbersome to hike in, especially if using trekking poles.  Today was a bad day for a poncho, because the trail was so rocky.  I had trouble seeing my feet and any time I had to step up onto a rock I had to be careful not to step on the end of the poncho.

Still, even with the rain and wind, there was a highlight of our hike.  I got to meet Hobbit.  He started at Springer in Georgia and is planning to finish the trail on his 59th birthday.  I didn’t ask him when that would be, but I’m sure it’s sometime this summer.  This is his anniversary hike.  He thru-hiked the AT 25 years ago and is doing it again to celebrate that anniversary.  Personally, I think I would have just opened a bottle of champagne and looked at the old photos.  But, he was having a good time and that’s what matters.  He, by the way, was not wearing any rain gear.  He only had a cover over his pack.

That’s all I know today.

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