I cut off of the highway and back onto the official Pinhoti Trail. My little road walk, I'm happy to report, cut out about 20 miles of needless road walk. I did good. =)
I camped a bit further up, about a mile before the small town of Holland, tucked well into the woods since, technically speaking, it was private property and illegal to camp. So I definitely intended to be stealthy!
The night passed well enough, and the next morning I got up early and hit the trail. I stopped briefly at a convenience store in Holland where I picked up a package of Skittles and a bottle of orange juice before continuing my rails-to-trail hike.
The day was overcast and looking ugly, as well it should since the last weather report I checked in Cave Spring predicted rain for most of the day and night. The rain hadn't started yet, and I hoped it would hold off until later in the day--maybe even after I set up camp, if I were really lucky.
Regardless, I did not intend to hike a long day. I knew rain was in the forecast, and I hate rain. And at this point, I only needed to average a measily 15 to 16 miles per day to reach Springer Mountain on time. I could easily quit early, and even had the latest Reader's Digest to occupy my time once camp was set up.
I planned to wait out the storm, assuming I could set up camp before it started. The next few days were expected to be nice--just today and tonight were expected to be wet. Very wet.
The trail cut off the rail-to-trail and back onto Highway 100 a short ways before entering the mountains, wonderful mountains, once again. The road walk was over.
There's not much to report except that the rain started at around 3:00 in the afternoon, and at that point I started looking for a place to set up camp. Ideally, I wanted to camp near a stream so I'd have essentially all the water I wanted, but the next water source I *knew* was on the trail was more than nine miles away, so I stopped at a nice flat area with lots of leaves.
The rain paused long enough for me to set up my tarp, not that I wasn't already soaking wet, but it's nice to set up camp without it actively raining at the same time.
I pitched my tarp alongside a fallen tree, using it as a wind (and rain!) break for one side, and I set up the tarp relatively low knowing a heavy rain would be starting soon. The forecast I saw suggested that three or more inches of rain were possible, and that's a heck of a lot of rain.
It didn't take long before the steady patter of rain hit the tarp and lightning roared across the mountain, deafning thunder shaking the tarp. Oh, the fun!
I had changed into my dry clothes, and was somewhat giddy about the idea of not hiking in the rain. I still had more than four hours until sunset! It felt like I took off work early.
Around 4:30, I heard footsteps coming, and there was Mortis hiking down the trail, soaked to the bone. Poor guy. We talked for a few minutes, but he pushed on wanting to camp at a water source another mile or two down the trail--at least according to his trail notes.
With so much time to kill, I decided to cook a more elaborate dinner of bean, rice, and cheese burritos. My worry, however, was about running out of water. That meal tended to be a rather messy one to clean up and usually required large amounts of water (relatively speaking) to do well.
But I had a brilliant thought--what if I just cleaned the dishes with rain water? I put an empty 2 liter bottle at the edge of my tarp to catch some of the water running off it and was absolutely astounded when it filled up completely after a little more than an hour.
I had all the water I needed, for dinner, cleaning dishes, and brushing my teeth. I filled up the rest of my water bottles, then put the 2 liter bottle back at the edge of the tarp to catch more water.
I figured the bottle was probably catching about about 5 to 10 percent of all the water striking my tarp--certainly not most of it--but that meant my tarp was shedding between 20 to 40 liters of water PER HOUR while I was tucked safe and dry under it. I had no idea such huge volumes of water were hitting me! That's a heck of a lot of water.
In any case, any worries I had about running out of water went out the window. I had all the water I could possibly need readily available.
I finished the Reader's Digest shortly after sunset, and went to sleep soon after.
The rain continued all night and into the morning. I was really grumpy about the rain in the morning, complaining to myself that the weather forecast showed only a 10% chance of rain for the day, and it was still pouring buckets (or at least liters) of water.
I decided to wait it out, at least for as long as I could. Having run out of reading material the night before, I tried going back to sleep. Which worked to a degree, but I'd wake up again every half hour or so as my body kept wanting to get up with the sun.
Around 9:30, I finally started getting ready for the day. Near 10:00, the rain started to slacken, and it had nearly stopped completely by the time I hit the trail at 10:30.
It was an incredibly late start for me, but I did manage to miss most of the rain! Hooray!
I mosied along the trail, up and down. I didn't stop for water at the next water source a mile or two down the trail since I had already filled up with rain water.
The weather stayed drizzly all day. I call it fat fog. Not really a rain, per se, but still wet enough where you feel soaked through if you spend more than a few minutes in it.
Much of the time, I followed a single, solitary set of footprints along the trail. I knew they belonged to Mortis, and I guessed when my late start, he was probably at least a good five miles ahead of me.
At one point, the trail comes out of the woods to follow a dirt road which then crosses an unbridged creek.
I stood at the edge of the creek, extremely disappointed. With the rains from the night before, the creek was flowing pretty well, deep and cloudy with sediment. I thought my days of walking through knee-deep water had ended in Florida, but alas, the Pinhoti decided I needed it again.
I braced myself with my trekking pole and forded across, feeling the ground with my feet and prodding ahead with my trekking pole since I wasn't able to see the bottom of the creek. I waded across, up to my knees in water, exiting the other side grumbling about the lack of bridges.
I was, frankly, ready to quit for the day.