Thursday, May 9, 2013

Run, Run, Run Away
A video of our rainy, rainy week, and climb over Dragon's Tooth!

5/5: 14.1 miles. Pearisburg to... Campsite? Somewhere between Symms Gap and Dickenson Gap.

5/6: 19.2 miles. Campsite to other campsite! About a mile past War Spur Shelter.

5/7: 17.3 miles. Campsite to Niday Shelter.

5/8: 10.1 miles. Niday Shelter to Pickle Branch Shelter

5/9: 6.6 miles. Pickle Branch Shelter to VA 624 (we then got a ride to Roanoke to get our rental car! We were taken by excellent, generous guy named Andrew. He has a one-eyed dog named Odin. Awesome).

I never really understood the meaning of the word "wet." I have been in showers. I have been in swimming pools. I have been to the beach. I have been in a puddle of my own 6th grade tears when I finally, tragically accepted that I was never going to get an acceptance letter from Hogwarts. In all of these circumstances I had access to a towel, or at least the knowledge that I would have a towel shortly. Except for that time I went to the pool with my Girl Scout Troop, went into the bathroom, and then the bathroom roof spontaneously caught on fire. I didn't need a towel that time. 

Now I have a new understanding of the word wet. It is not simply an adjective. It's a state of being. You become part of the collective of wetness to the point where you are not a consciously distinct entity from the puddle in which you are standing. Like being part of some gigantic connected organism. You deal in wet, you breathe wet, you sleep wet. IS THIS WHAT COMMUNISM IS LIKE?! 

It rained for three days straight. Hot Dog- apparently it didn't rain where you guys were, but I promise you didn't make a mistake. In the mountains it was constant thunder storming to the point where the streams completely overflowed, drowning the foot bridges and rock crossings. Please, reference the above video where you can see that Whistle had to clamber 5 feet up onto a soaking wet fallen tree to shimmy over a flooded creek. On the other side was a sodden note from a previous hiker that read:

"Successful fording of an overfilled river.
Move ahead 2 spaces."

Whistle, Grim, Dumptruck and I have had a very fun, though frankly dangerous time over the past week as we have gone over countless soaking and slippery rock scrambles. My favorite instance of this was when the only possible way to traverse a slick, huge ridgeline boulder was to inch your way across a crack in the boulder like walking a tight rope. This crevice, the only way to walk that did not result in suffering from a sudden and irreversible case of deadness, was full to bursting with poison ivy. Dumptruck and I cackled at this with the sort of mad hysteria common to someone who has won the lottery and accidentally eaten his ticket in excitement. 

Because of the rain, we often had shared dinner time in Dumptruck and my 3-person tent. The 4 of us squeezed in there each night as lightning crashed around us, rain pelted the tent, and Grim tooted like a leaky balloon animal. We all dealt with this hardship in different ways. Dumptruck would scream and claw at the air, hoping to scatter the smell. Whistle would rip her own soaking filthy hiking socks off of her feet and bury her face in them, inhaling her own, preferable stench like a bouquet of lavender. I convinced myself that it was my own gas, a strategy which only works if you can master both the art of disassociation as well as the art of tolerating the smell of your own farts. And Grim would laugh. And laugh. And laugh. 

Yeah, that sounds like family.

Whistle's tent has been conveniently disintegrating over the past few days, leaving giant gaping holes in her rain fly. She has tried many strategies for tackling this problem such as duct tape, sewing, and shaking her fists at the sky. Nothing has worked. But since we all like each other way too much, Whistle has been able to set up her tent underneath Grim's hammock tarp. We are Shanty Town both in action and visual presentation.

I have found that the only way to descend soaking wet mountains is to crouch halfway, stick my butt out, and kick my feet forward in rapid succession like a traditional Russian dancer who has become terribly, terribly lost. This seems to help minimize the pressure on my feet, and keeps my mind off of the rain. The other thing that has kept my rear in gear is to listen to an endless loop of devastatingly embarassing pop music. Pop music is helpful for hiking as it has a nice driving beat and provides the extra motivation of walking faster in an attempt to get away from it. 

Whistle has found that the only way for her to descend soaking wet mountains is to trip and fall over every available log, rock, and slightly overturned leaf. The pinnacle of this was when Grim actually fell spectacularly into the mud, and Dumptruck's immediate reaction was to yell,

"WHISTLE! Are you okay?!"

He did not do this to mock Whistle. He did this because his brain interpreted that the falling body must belong to her, in spite of its Grim-like shape.

On Wednesday we meant to hike a full 16 miles, but decided to stop short due to having an intense desire to not go over Dragon's Tooth in the rain. Dragon's Tooth is a notoriously craggy, rocky mountain that is so steep at parts to necessitate wrought iron climbing rungs be nailed into the rocks. So we went only 10 miles, which felt utterly bizarre, as we have spent the last 2 weeks sprinting for hours on end every day. During the 10 mile hike over a beast of a mountain, we passed a pair of young boys (maybe 13 and 14 years old) out for a hike with their Bloodhound. We chatted with them for a bit, and they told us they were homeschooled, and were out for the day hiking. They were quite nice. About 30 minutes after we got to the shelter (which was 0.3 miles off-trail), the boys also came down the hill.

"Howdy!" We called. They sat at the picnic table with us in front of the shelter and chatted with us about hunting, growing up in the area, etc. They told us they were just out for the night, so they had only brought along a couple of cans of cold stew. We offered for them to use our stove to heat up their food, and they very gratefully accepted. They even washed the pot out afterward. We gave them some properly treated water as well, and they fed their floppy Bloodhound dog.   Everything was calm and charming. The sun had finally, blessedly come out, so we hung up a clothing line to dry out our sodden gear. I went to the privy, and apparently this is what I missed:

It was nearing sunset when a man came, very quietly, down the hill carrying nothing but a gigantic flashlight. He ducked behind trees and peered around them, looking like a man playing hide and seek. The boys didn't notice him until he was 10 feet from camp, when suddenly the older boy's face fell.

"Hey," he said resignedly, "It's your dad."

The younger one looked around and then hung his head. The man sat down at the campsite, looked between the two of them and said,

"Well. You boys are in big trouble."

Apparently they were runaways. They were not homeschooled. They'd left in the morning, leaving nothing but a note that said:

"We're going to Maryland."

The cops, the church, and the entire neighborhood had been out all day looking for them. The younger one's dad had found them by following the giant footprints that the bloodhound had left in the muddy trail.

I know what you're thinking.

"Clever Girl, you were in the privy the ENTIRE TIME this went down?!"


Well, no. 

I came out just in time to see the boys following Dad uphill, their heads hung in shame, and sad Charlie Brown music mysteriously following after them, fading quietly until they were gone.

On Thursday Dumptruck and I had to say goodbye to Whistle and Grim, as we've finally gotten to the day that we rent a car and drive North to our friend Meredith's wedding. We had a beautiful day over Dragon's Tooth, and had incredible views because the weather finally broke. I cried after leaving those two goofballs, but I know we'll see them again. Over the rainbow.

Clever Girl

In spite of his intense concerted effort to keep it dry, the rain permanently destroyed Dumptruck's fancy camera. So, the only photo I have is one from my iPod of a shelter entry I did at Pickle Branch.


  1. I love the video! Thanks so much for posting it:-) I am wondering why Whistle, who apparently trips over leaves and has to be taped back together by Grim (thank you!) is the one bouldering! Of course, being her mom, I know exactly why she is the one bouldering:-) You all look like you are having a wonderful time in spite of the weather. I'm so glad you found each other.

    Sorry to hear about Dumptrucks camera:-( I hope you have a great road trip!

    Mama Whistle

  2. Mama Whistle, you are so brave to watch that without cringing! It doesn't pass the mom approval test...but it was really cool watching Whistle do something so awesome! Well done to all hands in keeping up your spirits in what should have been very dispiriting weather! We are proud of all of you. Stay safe on the road, Clever Girl and's gonna be disorienting doing in an hour what typically takes 3-4 days. Love to all! Mom and Dad