I listened to the continuous rain on the tent each time that I awoke. It seldom let up. By five AM the need to add to the water production was greatly upon me but the thought of getting out of the tent was hideous. It would mean man handling my very muddy boots to the front of my narrow-low tent and somehow get them on. It had to be done! I waited for a minor slackening of the rain and wham…. I was out of there… albeit stumbling while dodging tent lines and trees blocking my way. Didn’t these trees know that when there is a need it is very real. Stand aside trees. I have a mission. Mission accomplished. Now to get back to the warmth of my home before the next gully washer hit. Success!
Two hours later I awoke to the sound of talking in the next two tents. It turns out that it was about ten or twelve college students from Auburn and Texas A & M on spring break. I heard one say, “we should have gone to the beach”. Another chimed in, “My dad said it’s going to drop into the teens tonight”. A girl in the next tent offered, “Every bit of me and my equipment is soaked.” Slowly the thought was in motion… and then it happened….”Let’s bail!!!!”
I kept looking at No Name’s tent. He was thankfully still in it. Silver was MIA. I fell back to sleep and when I awoke it was 8. I crawled out of my tent and bumped into No Name. “It’s going to be wicked. Silver and I are talking about bailing at Unicoi and getting a taxi into town for the night. Are you in?”
By the time I turned back to my tent during that short conversation my rain fly had frozen. It was a good call. Silver appeared from the other side of the Shelter all smiles and happy as a clam. “We’re going into town!!!!” I must admit…a bed and dry gear sounded wonderful. Soon we learned that just about the entire camp was bailing. We were not alone.
2.3 miles later we were at Unicoi Gap and No Name had called Affordable Cab. The only instructions by the driver…”Stay right where you are… don’t move”. It turns out that many hikers call for the cab which is 12 miles away and then find a free ride without letting the cabbie know. Not nice. We, of course, are three perfect humanoids and were dutifully standing in the very same spot when he arrived.
Above is No Name of Memphis, Silver of Maine, and a new momentary companion Tapeworm. He was busy chugging down a cold beer at ten in the morning and was very happy. He had just met a girl two weeks ago and they were going to hike the trail together. Seems like taking her to a movie first might have been in order.
As we stood there vehicles came in and out picking up and dropping off hikers. This group arrived from Helen via a Good Samaritan. I spoke to the young man who had ridden in front. On the ride the driver had asked, “Do y’all smoke out thar?” Before he knew it the truck was filled with the fragrance of weed as the driver joyfully weaved his way up the mountain. In the back the others hung on for dear life wedged between a ladder and a hodge-podge of tools. All were glad to get back onto the safety of the trail.
Soon Affordable Cab arrived. We piled into the warm van and met the driver who physically literally filled the front of the van . He was great!A former design engineer he was now living his dream. He brought us to a Holiday Inn with a Buffet next door! This must be Heaven. Soon showered and laundered we had wet gear spread throughout the room. Once again fat and sassy we spoke highly of our adventure and the joys of being miserable. Projections were made, packs organized and most importantly Silver Bullet had his first ever Southern sweet tea. He took a swallow and I saw glee in his eyes and mouth. No Name and I knowingly acknowledged his moment of discovery. Hike on.