I awoke to the sound of heavy rain, checking my watch I knew it was early, at 4 am. It didn’t take long to fall back asleep from the previous days climb. Awaking again at 6:30 I packed up all the things in my tent into my bag and headed for the shelter. There I knew I could rearrange them and break down my tent if needed. The rain was pouring down, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the rain come down this hard. We put out a gallon bucket to see how much it was raining and it filled up in two hours.
As everyone joined us under the shelter we discussed the weather and the possibility of hiking today. Many were deciding to take a zero for the day and we agreed with them. The wind and the rain was relentless, with a few short breaks giving a false sense of clearing up. Waiting till noon many of us decided to head out for our intended destinations based upon a weather report from another hiker. Packing up our gear, seeing that the rain has let off for about an hour now we headed down the trail.
You know it always happens this way, you walk out, you think you are right and it will get nicer, then BOOSH it just dumps on you. That’s exactly what happened, the rain just came down heavier than before. It soaked us through and through in seconds, our jackets no match for the onslaught of water. The trail was flooded and refuge could not be sought anywhere. The trail became a river from the tiny springs that crossed it every so often.
There was no way to avoid being soaked from head to toe. Each step was like walking through a river, shoes soaked, we climbed over rocks, roots, and made our way down the trail. It was hard to keep any decent pace with the conditions we were facing, driving rain, high winds, deep mud, slippery rocks made hiking dangerous. I took care not to slip, but fell once or twice because of the slickness of the trail. Rain pouring down on us we trudged onward, like the explorers of old. Up the trail over the hills and down the backsides we hiked.
Coming to deep gap Kevin and I took refuge under a tree and reassessed the conditions for the day. Not good, these winds and soaked grounds could fell a tree in seconds. The ground was saturated and water was flowing everywhere. We had to get off trail, the danger was too high. It came to no surprise when we encountered a section hiker who told us there was a flash flood warning for our area. That sealed the deal for us, call a shuttle and get the hell out of dodge. We aren’t afraid by any means, but we are not idiots either. It was way to dangerous at this point. Calling Gene, we waited for an hour, hoping and praying we could get out in time.
While we waited two other hikers joined us under our tree, each wanting to get out. We let them know we had a shuttle on our way. Drenched to the core, we shivered and huddled together for warmth. The sheer amount of water amount of water and wind was rapidly sucking the heat from our bodies. Hypothermia could be a concern if we stayed out too long. Time slowed, each minute straining to feel like an hour while we waited for our shuttle. Four sardines tucked in a can is what you would have thought of us, if you had walked upon us. While we waited a car pulled up with four college age kids looking to hike the Georgia section south. I quickly informed them of the trail conditions and urged them to start further south where it was safer rather than here. Luckily they headed our warning and headed to Dick’s Creek Gap instead.
When Gene finally arrived the four of us, freezing, soaked, shivering, excitedly piled in his car craving the heat to warm our tired souls. Gene had to be cooking with the heat on full blast as we left Deep Gap in a hurry. The rain never let up, not once. On our way to Franklin, North Carolina we saw caution signs for mud slides on the road.