Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Start: Slickrock Creek | Finish: Whig Meadow | Miles: 21.4 | Total: 127.6
8:00 PM – By far the worst day yet.
(Writing on 8/1/13) – It rained off and on all through the night, finally petering out around 6:00 AM. I got up at 7:00 and was on the trail a little after 8:00. The first two miles were supposed to be “numerous creek crossings” so I was prepared to have wet socks. But I managed to pick across all of them (5 or 7) without getting wet. About 3 miles in, while climbing up to Farr Gap, it actually started to rain for real. The rain only lasted about 45 minutes. However, the rest of the day was cool and “rainy” and never showed a sign of improving.
The trail was pretty pathetic too, even if imagined sunny and dry. But it was wet. 90% of the time was spent wading through neck high overgrowth. Pushing through Laurel or Rhododendron, at best, weeds and briers at worst. On one side trail to find water, I had to wade through waist high grass.That grass can hold some water – it was like pouring a bucket over water over my front.
None of this section of the trail is blazed, either. The trails are numbered on the map and at trail intersections, which are numerous. The “camp sites” are just wide spots on the trail – no real incentive to stop and get cold. I finally had lunch around 3 PM. It rained again at 4. I arrived at Unicoi Crest at 5, where the BMT crosses the Cherohala Skyway. On the other side of the Skyway, the blazes start up again. You don’t know how comforting it is to see a white diamond painted on a tree! This strange short section from Unicoi Crest to Stratton Gap meanders in a convoluted manner along the Skyway, with a blaze on on nearly every 3rd tree. The occasional gauntlet of overgrowth was insanely dense. My destination for the day was “Quarry” – the last half mile was on a service road that reached new heights in the definition of overgrown, even by this day’s standards.
The Quarry – just that, an abandoned overgrown quarry – was supposed to have a camp site and a water source. I was unable t find either. The “meadow” was waist high thick wiry grass. The trail leading out the other side was a rocky service road with dense weedy forest on either side. By now I was just hoping to find a water source, to camp anywhere. It was 6PM. I had hiked 19+ miles. The next camp site was 2 miles away. 1 hour. I decided to push on.
I arrived at Whigg Meadow at 7 PM. It was cold and wet and very foggy. I traipsed around the wet tall grass looking for “campsite”, and found a couple of fire rings. The water source was not described well enough for me to find it in the thick fog and waning light. The fog was so thick, I could not see from one side of the meadow to the other. It messes with your sense of scale and direction. I decided to push my luck and just set up camp in the trees, and sleep. No dinner, no journal, just a bag of M&Ms.
During the night it continued to rain. I also accidentally drained my iPhone batteries. Usually it drops only a few % points at night, even when falling asleep to music. But this time it went from 82% to 21%. I think I was lying on the Voice Command button all night. I think I smelled ozone.
Sorry for the shortage of pictures – my camera/phone was in a ziplock for most of the day.