To slack pack or not to slack pack

I didn’t sleep a wink, I’m not surest was due to the full belly or just being uncomfortable. Kevin had taken to hand washing the laundry so all of our clothes were drying over the night. I tossed and turned throughout the entire night, I even took to trying different beds for comfort. To make matters worse the owner had a Rooster and he started in at 4 am in the morning.  Nothing like the caw of a Rooster over and over again to keep you from sleeping. It’s not that he started at dawn, he started at 9 pm and every so often would caw through the night.

Breakfast was had and we set up for our slack pack for the day.  I was so looking forward to also packing since we knew the terrain would be a constant of ups and downs with the heat. Not having to carry my pack and the weight was looking to be a nice change. We headed out at about 11 am to the trail head, hiking north on the AT towards Max Patch, with the goal of camping there for the night. Teddy, Ultra Notlight, Card Shark, Kevin and I were all ready to go, we just needed to get down to the trailhead andhead out.

The heat had already started to hit us by the time we hit the trail head.  At 10 am it felt as if it was already in the 80s. The climb uphill pushed my body to cool itself, sweat poured out from every pore.  The humidity, high and heavy, made the air feel like water.  It was hard to breathe heavy as you hiked up the switchbacks up the hill.  The first 4 miles we knew were going to a rough uphill climb till we started to ascend the balds. Coming back up to the 400ft range almost always is quite straining.

About halfway up we came to a small handwritten note, left in the middle of the trail, “Watch out for rattlesnakes. -Seriously”.  Great I thought to myself, now I have to be extra careful in this snake infested area of the trail.  The high heat meant they would be basking on rocks or the open trail, soaking up the heat from the day.  Every rock, fallen log along the trail became a hazard to me.  I spent the next two miles checking each rock for snakes before heading farther along the trail. This became very tedious and time consuming as we went.

Running into Deja Vu, we struck up a conversation, while hiking together for a few minutes.  He wasn’t slack packing so his pace was not as fast as mine was.  Fortunately for me I was able to keep up with him going uphill, he has a killer pace going up.  After a while I seemed to peel away from him going uphill, the steady climb with a pack was beginning to slow him little by little.  It wasn’t long before I found myself alone again hiking to the top of Snowblind  Bald.  Teddy, Kevin, and I took in the views for a minute before descending back into the woods to wards Max Patch.

From here on out the day began to get worse and worse. Each hill I climbed wax just as steep as the one before, giving no breaks between climbs and descents. The onslaught of hill after hill wore me down very quickly, I just wanted to finish the hike. Trudging along, I noticed everyone was vastly ahead of me,  which didn’t bother me too much.  It allowed me to think of home and other things I needed to do.  This is how I passed the time over the next few miles of hills.

The sheer monotony of hills and unchanging landscape, with its grey sky ceiling, blended together into a blur.  My brain at this point shut off and I just mosied along without thought, like a lifeless corpse shambling onward.  My arms no longer swung in stride, instead the drooped straight down, dragging my poles that hung loosely from my wrist. My face loose and free from any tension moved only when I breathed out.  My feet felt as if they drug across the ground,with each step brining me closer to my eventual goal.  The heat was unbearable, I was becoming dehydrated, sore, and starting to doubt that Max Patch would ever arise over the next hill.

The threat of lightning flashed across the sky, bringing the sound of thunder soon after. There was a storm brewing and by the sound of it any second now, it would dump buckets of water on me.  I made haste getting my jacket and shirt on just as the hail came down. Small pea sized bits of hail started to trickle in, then picking up in volume till it was a full on hail storm. Plink, plink, plink, the hail bounced off everything. Then the rain came, large fat droplets, smashing to the ground.  I was soaked through and through in just a few minutes as I trudged along.

From out of nowhere I heard, funk funk funk funk and the sounds of smashing wet feet on the ground.  Apparently I had passed Teddy at some point and he was booking it.  Running down the hill I just came over to get to our meeting point for his pack.  I picked up pace, knowing I wasn’t the last one out here, for the last mile.  Coming to the last bend in the trail I found no more blazes, I ran up and down the dirt road twice looking for a following blaze, soaked, irritated, patience gone, I finally speed the bright red poncho.  Kevin was down at the end of the road, running down it for the third time I met up with Lauren Card Shark, Ultra Notlight Andrew, Noseblind Teddy, and Kevin.

Everyone was soaked and apparently I was early.  That high lasted about 5 minutes when I realized they weren’t here yet with our packs.  Standing at the gap, with no cell signal, we got more and more wet.  Teddy’s phone had been soaked through and trashed, my shoes were so wet when I walked water squished out.  We stood there for an hour before I took off down the road to try and call out.  I was standing in the middle of the road with plenty of view in either direction when this car came around the corner in a hurry.  The tail slide around the turn might have been an indicator.  As the car approached it had no intention of stopping or slowing, I moved out of the road quick so I wouldn’t get hit.

You’ve got to be kidding me it was the slack pack we had arranged and the kid is driving like a maniac, probably because he knew he was late.  Tired, soaked, freezing, we all had the same idea, screw it let’s go back and sleep and return in the morning when it’s nice.  The car ride back could be described as an adventure to say the least.  The five of us were crammed, one on top of each other, in the back seat of the Subaru.  The weight alone maxed out the worn out shocks.  The kids driving changed slightly to accommodate us but he was still all over the place.  While we bounced up and down in the back seat,we slammed into each other.  Even on the highway we nearly kissed the rock wall and divider once or twice.  Let’s just say we wanted to get back and get out of the car.  Finally arriving at the hostel we got our stuff out and planned dinner and that’s when I saw Gadabout, T-bird, and Big Brown.

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