The shelter didn't fill until after dark. Several groups passed afterwards on the push to Trail Days. The wind struck up around two hours later filled with rain. Rain it came and came, by the sprinkle, by the bucket. In the morning for the shuffle it still rained. Teasing us it was over, light and not at all, a tease.
I decided to get up and go. The bear bags hung in near by trees. When I got mine down I grabbed everyone else's. This shelter did not have bear cables or pole. I used the PCT method, the others were just a line tide to a tree. At the previous shelter someone lost their food bag, though hung, to a bearusing the traditional method.
I got moving with a pack cover on, my goods were in a contractor bag inside the ruck. The rain was cool not cold and let up a little periodically in the morning at times breaking the weather into fool's clearing.
I got to the half way point, another shelter, and came into the company of YWAM VA. I'd met one them early in my journey. YWAMers are like Thru-hikers we know of other people within the community. YWAM Ships came up in the conversation. I also recognized a few faces from the night before and weeks prior. Trail Days is a conglomeration of hikers, faces and names will be matched finally.
After an hour or longer I got to moving. The rain hadn't let up. I had 8 more miles for the day. This is the second half of the back to back 20's, though not technically 20 miles for today. These last 8 are said to be the easiest of the Trail. I picked up a rain jacket to carry into town that was left. I wore it. It wore well for the weight, light. If I can't find the owner or she doesn't find me, I'm keeping it. If she does find me, I'm getting one for myself. I like it that much. Two hours into the projected four hours of the hike into town the jacket's effectiveness wained. Still it kept it's purpose, keep me dry, I also sweated.
After another hour later the rain still poured. I recognized stage one hypothermia, loss of finger dexterity, and focus narrowing from mind wandering to survival. Shivering hadn't come yet, just the cold, the cold. I had two miles yet to cover. I went from hiking to just moving down hill focusing on each step.
I heard sounds of town. Eventually I saw a roof below in the woods and then a Welcome to Damascus sign. At the awning on an info table, I spoke with another YWAMer and tried to open a ziploc of treats. I couldn't. She gave me directions to the library, a block away. I needed to get warm and fast. I moved my numb body that direction.
At the library, I got warm. My mind focused on two things: get warm, get dry. I got warm. Dry would come later. I saw more familiar faces including two.guys from last night, they arrived before the torrential down pour that caught me for over three hours. Did I say at times, visibity, poor to almost okay. I was in the car wash from hell with no exit.
From the library I got to the outfitters. At the outfitters I got my drop box from home. My condo arrived. I am ditching the tent for the hammock. Hammocking is my choice of back country luxury. Why I swapped at the last moment before the journey is a weight decision. A winter hammock kit is heavy. Tenting in winter is lighter. Or so I thought until today's rain. I'd given the weight penalty to have my Clarke NX-150 from late September's late fall hike into the Uinta's, today.
While there, at the outfitter, I fumbled my phone. I'm so cold at this point, my touch screen didn't work, the store clerk typed in my unlock code to find a friend's number. I called and no answer. I hung out for a moment to get warm before heading back to the library.
Back to the library, I got a ride to tent city. Back to being cold, I fumbled for the registration. Someone tried to carry a conversation with me. I ditched it, cold and wet, I needed to shed my wet layers and fast. Conversation can wait, any longer and trouble is here for me. Dry, get dry, is my focus. I didn't want to delay any longer, warm and dry are a box, two trees, and focus away at that moment.
I found two trees for the tarp on the far side of tent city. As I set it, bumbling with the knots when someone else came by. Shortly after the tarp was set I got the dry clothes out of my backpack. A fellow thru-hiker, Stitch, hung his tarp near by. Bear Claw came by to say Hey. It's good to them both. With the tarp finally set, dry and warm were in progress. Rain it still came, not heavy just well rain. Relief is a word not lightly used, I am relieved to be on the fast track to warm and dry as I finished setting my hammock. Hypothermia stage one is now in my past. I could feel the rush of warmth to my skin as the fleece jersey replaced the soaking wet t-shirt and rain jacket. My rain pants replaced the hiker shorts. Socks wet stayed, town called, food, buildings with heat, etc.
I finally got warm and dry. I've hung out at the hiker mission across the street. My socks are wet. My hiking clothes are hanging on the hammock ridge line to dry, if dry should come My camp is a mess but, so what. I'll sort it out tomorrow.
What did I learn from today? What could I have done differently? Good questions. Honestly, I wouldn't do anything differently. I saw only two places to pitch a tent once the hypothermia signs showed. Wood was all wet so making a fire was out of the question. Fire up my stove? Alcohol stoves require attentive attention, which I did not want to spare plus boiling water is 10 minutes away for a mug, nor much warmth or dry there. Just getting and staying dry would be enough. Now with my tarp and hammock I can stop in more places to do just that, make dry happen. I could have stopped and grabbed dry clothes but I only carry only one set (the clothing I wear) and sweats, beyond my rain gear, for sleeping. Changing clothes when one does not have them is out. Done on rain gear? By this point of soaking, the rain jacket failed, my own might prolong the ability to stay wet and retain heat. Rain gear is for regulating body heat, not so much as keeping dry. Getting to a place where I could get and stay dry today was my greatest priority.
Hiking the AT is definitely a learning experience about who I am and what I can endure. I am learning there are many ways to the goals. Today finishing meant more then just getting to Damascus. It nearly meant my survival. How close did I come not to making it? I care not ask. I've been wet endlessly before. I've been cold, bitter cold before. This is my first experience with both. I could have stayed at the last shelter, the company was good. I had plenty of supply and it is dry there. I wanted to make it and before dark. Sure go slower, put my rain gear on. There are choices to be made. I made the choice to go on. Only two miles once I saw hypothermia signs, 45 minutes down hill to travel. I could manage that and did. Honestly, I could go further, next time I won't. I'll get dry and fore go the final.
Hike on. Hike dry...