|Franklin and I at Neel's Gap|
To my big surprise there was already someone in there: a young section hiker. I dropped all my stuff and checked the dryness of my clothes - only to discover that things were much worse than expected. Everything, really everything I wore was soaking wet. My shoes, socks, pants, underpants, all my baselayers and, worst of all, my thick fleece jacket. Fleece, pants and socks were so wet that I could wring them out. I became a bit concerned. The forecast had predicted very cold temperatures for tomorrow and my fleece jacket was my warmest layer. How would I survive without it? I wrung out my clothes as best as I could and hung them for drying. I set up my tent in the shelter for additional warmth and felt quite cosy in my quilt. Soon two AT sobo hikers turned up. One of them was not even wearing a rain jacket, but only a woolen sweater. He was even more drenched than I and shaking uncontrollably. Compared to him my situation looked rosy.
As a happy hiker a continued, found the turn off and reached Standing Indian Campground just at dusk. The campground was closed now in winter and everything was locked, but to my great delight I saw that the toilet buildings had a covered porch. To me this little sheltered roof was luxury! I set up my tent in the dark and went to sleep happily awaiting the rain. And it came promptly as predicted at midnight. Only it would not stop as predicted. It continued to rain the whole morning - and my precious little detour went down the drain. I could not get myself to get out and hike in this weather, but waiting would put me behind schedule again. This was Christmas, December 24th. No way I would hike in this misery. At 1 pm the rain finally stopped. I packed up and left my little sanctuary. To hell with my schedule: I would just hike to the next shelter and call it a day, Christmas day....
|My Christmas refuge|