The Priest Mountain Shelter
I awoke well rested but even before I got out of the tent I knew that the atmosphere outside had changed. There was the feeling of impending rain and a dampness in the air that was all enveloping. I decided to rush it up a bit in order to get a head start. 13.2 miles away was a point at which I could perhaps get a shuttle. A check of the weather reported lots of rain and some snow as well as night time temperatures into the 20’s.
My hope was to push through but at the same time I felt no desire to not seek warm shelter if the opportunity presented itself. Eight miles ahead began a well known section of the trail known as the Priest. It’s a well traveled section of the AT somewhat like McAfee and Tinker Cliffs.
Just before reaching The Priest Shelter after 8 1/2 miles I felt a sprinkle. Within minutes at 0900 the skies opened up and it poured….and poured…..and poured. I knew that hanging out in the shelter was accomplishing nothing so I put every piece of rain gear that I had on as well as on my pack.
Soaked came quickly. For awhile I could see a small dry spot below my kneecaps on both legs. It made me thankful for knobby knees but that soon disappeared.
I was supersaturated enough that I felt like I was hiking in a washing machine. Sadly I had forgotten to add soap so I knew that when the cycle ended I’d still stink.
My Mind Was Made Up
After hours and miles of rain hiking I’d made up my mind……..a shuttle and hostel in Waynesboro, Virginia. The Priest Mountain top came and went with no views as did the evidently impressive views along the ridge. It was more than 3,000 feet of elevation drop to the river below.
The shuttle was waiting for me. The gear was thrown into the back and I slid my wet thankful body into the front seat. The driver turned out to be my second Pilgrim on the trail. Born in Missouri he now manages the hostel.
As we talked I leaned up against the passenger door and realized that my right arm was painful. Weird…. I hadn’t fallen. At the same time I got a message from brother Scott…..”Do you have cell service?” I called him. “Mom has fallen and broken her hip. She’s just been taken to the emergency room.”
Plans change in a hurry. Goals are quickly set aside to deal with new challenges. This would be a major adjustment for something much more important.
It’s Not an Oconee County Waterfalls
When I arrived at the hostel I pulled off my rain jacket and vest to investigate the pain. It appeared that I had a small stick impaled in my right upper arm. Just a Farmer was also at the hostel so I found a pair of tweezers and asked him to pull the stick out. As soon as he began the stick broke into pieces. Several other hikers gathered around to watch the digging into my arm. One of them suddenly said, “Look, it’s got legs!”
Farmer didn’t want to dig deeper but a second hiker named Boston grabbed the tweezers. He has no misgivings about digging deeper. I wasn’t sure if the aggressive approach was from the smell of beer on him or the fact that he was from Boston. After much deep probing he came out with a head….. a deeply embedded tick.
Well this day sure had taken quite a turn. The extreme redness had expanded around the site. It was too late in the day to resolve either problem so I spent the next few hours attempting to get input on my mother’s status.
The evening closed with the knowledge that my next day would include an Urgent Care Facility and Delta Air Lines.
There would be no “Hike on”