The skies have been threatening rain for a few days but the last weather report I'd heard said that today was supposed to be clear, so I figured the clouds would blow over...oh, not so. It started sprinkling at dark and then the storm started sometime during the night and woke me several times with strobe light-like lightning and LOUD thunder. The wind howled and blew the rain as well. My tent was on an incline, so I and the entire setup were sliding downhill...this caused the bathtub floor to level out, so instead of having a vertical wall to protect me from the rain, I basically had nothing. The first few times I woke I noticed there were some drops of water inside the tent...not a huge deal, so I didn't think much of it. Then I realized my clothes were a bit damp from laying on my left side, so I simply rolled over. The next time I woke, my right side was damp too...okay, maybe the water is a bigger problem than I thought! Veto, Pappy, and I were planning to get up at 4 for our marathon day, but it was still storming so we didn't get up until closer to 5. When I woke for good, I was wet all over, and when I packed up my sleeping bag and pad, I noticed a literal puddle in the downhill corner of my tent. No exaggeration...I was laying in at least a gallon of water. Crazy! (But luckily I knew I would be in town tonight...oh, but little did I know what would transpire in town...)
So the three of us packed all of our soaked and dirty gear in the dark and hit the trail at 6:15. We moved quickly on the "easy" terrain, Veto and I out in front and Pappy just a few minutes behind. The day finally cleared but was cool, which was perfect for hiking! Veto and I had 16 miles done by noon, and took our final break 4 miles from town at the TN-VA border!! A very exciting thing to cross another state line!
We descended into Damascus (known as the friendliest hiker town on the trail) feeling a bit worn out after averaging nearly 3 mph all day but excited to be in town where we assumed showers, laundry, and rest awaited us. As soon as we got to the edge of town, Torch, another thru-hiker, informed us that the entire town was out of power because of the storm last night...really?! My shower hopes were suddenly crushed...
We continued along the trail through town to Ruby's Rest, a small cottage we were staying in for the night. The owner, Nikki, informed us of all the storm damage (lots of destruction and we were thankful it wasn't any worse in the woods). She of course didn't have power either and was told it may be a matter of days before it was restored, but said she and her husband and kids were planning to drive into nearby Abingdon for dinner as the town still had power, and offered to take us along. Almost all of the stores and restaurants in Damascus were closed so for resupply we would have to go to Abingdon or somewhere else nearby. Once Pappy arrived we discussed the situation and decided we needed showers and laundry (read: electricity) so Jeff and Nikki told us of some hotels in Abingdon and offered to drive us around to find a place to stay. We all piled into their Volkswagen van along with their two daughters and made our way through the storm's damage...lots of missing roofs, downed trees, and debris everywhere as a few tornados actually touched down in the area.
The first few hotels we tried were completely booked (and one was without power) but we finally found a room at a Courtyard by Marriott in Bristol...expensive for a thru-hiker but totally worth it. I finally got my shower (don't think I want to try to break the 10 day record), we got some food, and are loving the short break from the trail. It's been a day of ups and downs but everything has worked out...and we have a new mileage record (I think the official count was 26.5)! A great day full of great stories and memories. It's all just part of the experience, right?
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