Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 63: Summer Solstice

6/21: Knights Inn - Raven Rock Shelter
Mile: 1024.5 - 1059.1

Happy summer solstice! The air is thick when I wake up, the low was 71 last night and it certainly feels like it. It's not like the desert out here, waking up early doesn't seem to help with the heat, this way I just get more hours of daylight which means more breaks. Rest Stop is long gone by the time I head out into the humidity. At least I feel better.

Leaving the lovely flatness of the C&O trail it's a 1000 ft climb up to Weverly cliffs and the ridge. I put my headphones in and one foot in front of the other because it's already that kind of morning. I pass at least 6 other hikers on the climb all looking exactly as overjoyed and sweat drenched as me. It's funny when instead of making small talk about the sunny weather everyone mentions the chance of thunderstorms with a slightly manic edge of hope.

The ridge itself is relatively flat, peaceful and green. I hear crashing and a large bear is staring at me through the bushes huffing loudly. No need to investigate an unhappy bear I book it down the ridge line and am happy to see all the other people around for once.

I chat a bit and flip flop a few I know. There's a bathroom and running water at a historical park, it's full of old stonework and boys scouts. I spend some time withFoxtrot and Pending who I've met but never hiked with.

Foxtrot and I end up spending most of the day together. It's so rare not only hiking with another woman but one my age it's a huge treat.

We're about a mile and a half from the Washington Monument (not that one, this one is small but on trail) when the sky darkens, wind picks up and within 5 minutes it's pouring. The rain is torrential, Foxtrot books it down the trail but I have my singing in the rain moment. The trail has become a river and my feet are soaked so I'm just singing and jumping in puddles having a grand time. I've actually missed this. I make it to a picnic area and a bathroom where I find foxtrot hiding. We eat lunch, attempting to dry a bit and taking full advantage of faucets and hand warmers.

The rain becomes mist and we brave the trail. It's easy rollers with one very long feeling stretch of rocks before the Ensign Cowell Shelter. It's only 6:30 when I get there and I'm still restless. Foxtrot is calling it a day but I decide to push on.

It of course starts raining again within 20 minutes of me leaving. The trail isn't very groomed and I'm soaked by bushes instantly, sliding in mud and frustrated instead of giddy. I pass up a creek thinking I have one more chance to get water and for the first time this trip screw up. I realize I've either missed it or its dry and I have no water.

Frustrated I push up the last steep climb to get to Ravens Rock Shelter right at dark. I set up my tent and head down a steep 200 ft plus drop to go the 0.3 miles to water by headlamp cursing the whole way. It's steep and rocky and I'm cranky about missing water. The water is delicious and the side trail much shorter and full of lightning bugs on the climb back up. I find Rest Stop and gripe about my night, it's nice to be able to whine to someone other than myself.

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