Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rain...and Lots of It

The hiking through northern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts remained fairly steep in general, but had a few sections particularly so, such as that heading down into Sages Ravine, CT. I took my time descending into the ravine so as to not have a repeat performance of my previous tumble. It certainly didn’t help that a massive rain storm had come through the previous night and was still raining steadily upon my descent. The rocks were slick and the foot holds were at times precarious. Were I to fall on the way down, it would have most likely involved a hospital visit, if not a body bag. I was however able to successfully negotiate my way down into Sages Ravine.

The walk in the ravine was a pleasure; not just that it was relatively flat but that it was a scenic walk along the valley floor next to a thundering river. At one point I met a crew doing some trail work, so I said a quick hello and carried on. Before long though, I had the sneaking suspicion that I took a wrong turn. The alleged white trail markers I thought I was following appeared a very light blue. I was glad that I turned around and asked the trail crew if I was heading the right direction as my initial suspicion of being on the wrong trail proved correct. When I asked the whereabouts of the Appalachian Trail, I was told, “It is right over there. You can’t see it because the river is swollen and is running over it”. The trail followed the river, but with the heavy rain, sections of the trail were underwater.

I was able to keep my feet relatively dry by doing some bushwhacking just above the trail. At one point though, the trail just seemingly ended. As I looked around I saw the trail continue perpendicularly through the river and into the state of Massachusetts. The section of river wasn’t running particularly hard, so I decided to remove my boots before crossing; generally a no-no when fording a river. I also unbuckled the straps from my backpack. In the event I got swept down stream I would be able to quickly ditch the bag. I had been swept downstream once before while fly fishing in New Zealand, so I have some experience there. I can remember the feeling of being pulled down river and trying to swim to shore. It was almost a helpless feeling where, as much as I swam I just got pulled further down river. I came out unscathed and it taught me to be more cautious. That being said, I was still going to remove my boots to ford the river. Many hikers carry “camp shoes” such as sandals or Crocs to wear around camp and to wear while crossing rivers, but in hiking lightweight I sacrificed them.

As I marched through the river and into Massachusetts, thunder began to rumble and the rain picked up. On sloped sections of the trail water was running along like a stream. On the more level sections puddles began gathering. Between the rain pounding down and the water on the trail, I gave up trying to avoid the puddles. It was far easier to splash right through them. It seemed that my feet were spending more time underwater than not. It was exactly what I dreamed about as a 7-year old: stomping through puddles for an entire afternoon, some nearly up to my knees. My raingear was easily outmatched, so I was drenched from head to toe. It later seemed kind of pointless that I had taken my boots of when crossing the river. It was one of those heavy driving rains where if I were standing inside I would say, “Man, I‘m glad I am not out there” and then would have borrowed a line from Carl Spakler in the movie Caddyshack, “I don’t think the heavy stuff will come down for a while.”

The temperature turned decidedly colder, which caused me at least a little concern as I was drenched; more pressing though was the lightening that pierced the sky. I had two sizable mountains to cross, including Mt. Everett (the second tallest mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts), before descending back down into a valley. The idea of being struck by lightning monopolized my thoughts for several hours as I crossed the nearly bare mountain tops. It was like my run across the Max Patch bald down in North Carolina all over again. There I was in a storm crossing the top of a mountain, crouching as best as I could. Walking with two metal hiking poles did nothing to ease my concerns.

While I did manage to avoid being struck by lightening, my leg was not cooperating. Not only was my leg not in better shape than the previous day, it was actually worse. It was getting to the point where I could barely bend my knee. In the evening I came across a road that would lead me to the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts and a hotel. For the first time in my hike I wasn’t able to hitch a ride to town and had to limp the three miles along the road. I checked into a hotel and couldn’t even make it back out across the street to get some dinner. When I called the restaurant across the street and told them I was looking to have food delivered across the way they asked me if I was serious. I was.

No comments: