Day 77. I broke one of my golden rules today, and all I can blame it on is the desire for a dry bed. In my pre-trip planning, I said I would never walk more than 1 mile off trail for resupply or lodging. But, when it rains all day … it is easy to convince myself otherwise. So I am sitting here at the Fairfield Inn of Lickdale, which is a 3 mile road walk from the AT, drying off and warming up.
This week of non-stop rain is going to seriously test my will, but as I mentioned yesterday, it is great to know I have options like this available if I want them. And today, I wanted them. (Spoiler alert, I’ll probably want them tomorrow and the next day too…). As for Lickdale, this town’s offering is basically just a truck stop off of highway 81, with a few fast food and hotel chains surrounding the off-ramp. But it just so happens, those are the two things I like most in this situation, so there is a smile on my face.
The whole day’s hike can be summed up as “rain and river”. The rain started overnight and didn’t stop all day (still hasn’t, and won’t for days). Because of this, the otherwise soft dirt trail was converted to a small river consistently along the way. I hiked a slow 2 – 2.5 miles an hour as I did my best to walk along the “riverbanks” or step on any rocks/roots protruding high enough up. I’m not sure if the photo above does it justice, but that is pretty much what I had to deal with non-stop. I eventually gave in and walked through it naturally, albeit reluctantly.
There were some neat sights today I would have enjoyed on a better day, but only stopped briefly to see before walking on: a waterfall, an old coal mining village, a steel bridge, and a couple vistas. All would have been nice rest breaks to take in, had the weather not dissuaded me. Still, they were great to see and provided momentary mood brighteners.
The trail was manageable for the first 10 or 13 miles, but then it started to drain on me and my mind wandered to how I could creatively solve it. I finished my planned 18 miles at 3pm, arriving at a small but dry Rausch Gap Shelter. Two of the hikers from last night were already set up there, but another hiker was contemplating going on.
His name is Hokie Pokie, and we quickly came up with the plan together to hike another 5 miles to the highway, and then 3 more off-trail to town. It would make this a long 27 mile day for me, but I didn’t care if it meant a comfortable rest afterward.
After the decision was made, we immediately set out. I knew Hokie Pokie from a couple sporadic meetings within the last couple weeks, and he seemed like a nice enough guy to share a room with. Those last 8 miles were anything but easy though, as our spirits was low and our energy lower. We hiked it in 3 hours and ended with a celebratory Burger King dinner before settling in at the hotel.
My conscience is also cleared slightly in that this helps solve my problem for tomorrow’s distance concern. By doing 5 more official AT miles than planned today, I can attempt to push for another 26 miler tomorrow and reach Eagles Nest Shelter. However, I also have the option of doing only 20 miles and staying at a hostel I didn’t notice earlier. I realize I’m becoming a bit of a rain wimp, but given the 5-day forecast … I think we all know what my decision will be tomorrow afternoon. And I’m perfectly ok with that.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1159.3
- Start Time: 08:00
- End Mile: 1183.4
- End Time: 18:40
- Miles Hiked: 24.1 (+3.0)
- Miles to Go: 1007.5
- Lodging: Fairfield Inn (Lickdale, PA)