Day 3 – March 23, 2020, A Story of Our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
We woke up soaking wet, freezing cold, and disgruntled at the company who sold us our expensive ultralight tent. It rained hard that night and it seemed as if the tent was not waterproof at all. Upon exiting the tent, it was still raining and our Florida bodies ached from the sting of the icy air. It rained the entire day, as we hiked through what seemed like endless uphill
muddy terrain. We realized that it was only day 3 and we already smelled horrific–most likely due to detoxing all of the environmental pollutants we are all exposed to on a daily basis in societal life (especially Baby Bear, who worked as a collision repair technician for BMW prior to hiking the trail), along with being soggy and covered in mud. We hiked for as long as our feet, brand new to hiking, would take us. The phone we had brought for our journey already had a dead battery and we were new to locating appropriate locations to set up camp. Due to coronavirus, we were abiding by the rules of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to stay away from shelters. Unfortunately, we were concerned about the tent holding up for another night with how heavy it continued to rain, and for a moment, we considered staying in a shelter until we could figure out a solution for the tent. We encountered a day hiker who informed us of there being a place to take cover at “Woody Gap.” By the time we arrived, our legs were shaking, we were nauseous from hunger, and we were exhausted from the moisture covering our bodies turning to ice…there was no way we were going to take another step, especially knowing that the next section of the trail led to Blood Mountain Wilderness. The day hiker was wrong–there was no shelter.
We huddled under a small kiosk at Woody Gap, holding each other for warmth. It was a bit frightening to be this cold, shivering uncontrollably, knowing that hypothermia was a very real concern. Baby Bear dug into his pack, taking out our little pot and stove, and 2 tea bags to provide us with some warmth. As physically uncomfortable as we were, we expected that our bodies would eventually be conditioned to the harsh climates
we would be exposed to throughout the journey. And we thought to ourselves, “Even in this physically challenging state, there is still nowhere else we would rather be.” We guessed it was somewhere around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. when the rain had finally ceased. We set up the tent near the parking lot in a spot we weren’t really supposed to camp at…but we knew we’d wake up early to leave no trace. A little while after we were tucked into the tent, I thought I heard a large animal walking by our tent (spoiler alert: it was just another hiker passing through late at night).
Day 4 – March 24, 2020, A Story of Our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
Rain again. Our biological alarm clocks were already working so well and we packed up early to begin our trek toward Blood Mountain Wilderness. Thunder roared across the sky and we felt a bit nervous about getting potentially struck by lightning. We felt a bit vulnerable not seeing any other hikers on the trail and with how loud the storm was, we didn’t want to sneak up on a bear or experience a bear sneaking up on us. Baby Bear knelt down at a water source to use our Sawyer mini filter to refill our bottles. He said to me, “We need to be careful when we’re getting water. I feel like a gazelle at a watering hole, hoping that a bear or mountain lion won’t come after me.” In that moment, another hiker came up behind us and sent Baby Bear jumping into the air, clutching his chest. “I thought you were a bear,” he said to the hiker (lol).
This photo was taken from N2Backpacking.com, since we were not able to use the phone for photography when the battery was dead.
As the storm worsened, we started thinking it would be wise to seek shelter just to wait out the storm. We found ourselves at Woods Hole Shelter, along with a few other cold and tired hikers seeking refuge. The hikers were friendly, but were clearly not having a good time. Every word out of their mouths was a complaint, whether it be about the weather, the ATC’s stance on COVID-19, or how heavy their packs were from the excessive amount of gear they were carrying. One of the hikers brought a drone and a folding chair. Another brought a full gas mask…and pennies “to purify his
water.” Hey, maybe it works, but we were quite happy using our Sawyer filter.
The storm lasted the entire night. While the other hikers slept huddled close together, we stood looking out into the storm, waiting anxiously for the night to turn to morning. It was kind of exciting watching the storm at first, but we knew hiking the next day would be a challenge without having sleep to heal our bodies. And yet, we looked at each other as our eyes burned with exhaustion and we knew exactly what each other was thinking–“There’s nowhere else we’d rather be.”