I left town in the morning. My hosts seemed worried, but I wanted to get back on trail. I knew it would be a rough climb over Saddleback in the rain, but I felt prepared! Lift N’ Step was the only other person heading back to trail with me.
We hopped out of the car in our rain jackets and took off! I ran ahead to get warm and was trying to puff myself up for the big climb. I walked the exposed ridge alone, wind whipping by. Just before treeline I decided it was too cold and put on my pants in the middle of trail. It was a cold moment reminiscent to the sleet storm coming out of Neels Gap in Tennessee. I stood there in my underwear next to the Apline zone warning sign, scurrying to get my pants on. When I hit tree line a blast of cold air hit. I ran as quickly as possible to get across the three exposed miles. Somewhere around 2 miles in I met an older gentleman who expressed worry for me. He said, “You’ve got a lot more of exposed hiking coming up.” But I knew he had a lot more coming up than I did, so the worry was mutual. I wondered about Lift N’ Step, but I had to keep pushing to get down out of the wind and rain. The descent from Saddleback was muddy and slick. I tired to master the art of falling without injury. I slid down off the mountain into the warmth of a campsite surrounded by the forest of death. I was out of the Whites, but it felt just as treacherous.
I got water at the site and had a snack. I really wanted to be in a shelter so I kept walking. I got to the next shelter really early and an older gentleman was already set up. He was happy to have company and we chatted away as I got my spot all settled for the night.
Two other gentlemen walked by, saying something about not liking shelters. They were interesting characters, but no mouse was going to move me from my warm, sheltered bed.
I was super excited when Lift N’ Step arrived, but she had a friend with her who I was somewhat familiar with. The lady hiking with her had started numerous fights on trail (fist fights between men) and she dampened my mood slightly.
Then, to my great disappointment, Chords arrived. I was trying to lose him by hiking out in the storm. I figured they probably kicked him out of town.
It poured all night. Even in the shelter we found the cold infiltrating. We shared stories and tried our best to enjoy the rain! For the next few days Lift N’ Step and I walked together. I didn’t usually walk with anyone and it had been a long time since I’d hiked right with another person. It was a warming experience. I found something I had missed very dearly.
Thanks for being an awesome trail buddy Lift N’ Step!!! We walked through a lot of rain, mud, rivers, roots and rocks together.