A rainy night left us a bit damp in the morning (and our tent positively soaking), but the prospect of food, showers, and a warm bed in Blue Ridge lifted our spirits.
The rain began a little after midnight, a bit earlier than the weather forecast had predicted, then stopped a little after 2 am, giving us a short reprieve before the main storm. At 3 am, the rain returned, bringing thunder and lightning. Over the next two hours, the thunder and lightning was bright, loud, and occasionally very close.
Out tent held up fairly well. A somewhat constant wind blew, pushing one side of the tent’s rainfly against the tent body, which let condensation leak into the tent. A tiny pinhole leak in the roof created a very slow drip that hit CareFree right on the tip of her nose. (That was easily remedied by putting a small towel on top of the tent body, under the rainfly.) Over the course of the night, though, we stayed mostly dry, with the occasional strong gust of wind blowing what felt like fine mists of rain into the tent. The tent’s floor was a bit damp; it was unclear if it was a leak somewhere, or just all the moisture collecting. Either way, we were dry.
It was still raining in the morning when we finally broke camp, which took longer than usual since we tried to do as much packing as possible from inside the tent. Eventually, though, we had to go out and brave the rain.
The tiny creek that we had crossed to get to the campsite was noticeably swollen, but that only made it a tiny bit more difficult to cross and still keep our feet dry.
There wasn’t a whole lot to see on today’s hike; with the rain we mostly kept our heads down and tried to go as fast as we could.
After we finished the steep portion of our descent, the trail joined what seemed like a forest road and became a lot more wide and level. Unfortunately, that also meant that rainwater pooled on the trail, making it a lot slower to hike than it would have been if dry. Eventually, the trail passed through a meadow, which was the scenic part of the day.
Near the edge of the meadow, the trail crossed Laurel Creek. On drier days, it appears this wouldn’t have been that difficult to cross, requiring crossing over a makeshift dam of rocks and branches. However, with the creek swollen from the rain, that was an unsafe waterfall as the creek flooded over the dam and the nearby trail. The only way to cross was to go through the water.
Shortly after that creek crossing, the trail entered private land, snaking through nice large wooden cabins and homes. Just when my feet had almost gotten the last of the water out of my shoes, we came to another crossing of Laurel Creek, this time even more flooded (and deep) than before.
Leaving the woods one last time for the day, we followed a road to Highway 76, our endpoint for the day, covering the 4.5 miles in almost exactly two hours. It took us less than five minutes to hitch a ride into town. A couple, Jason and Bethany, showed up almost out of nowhere when we momentarily stopped to look at our phones. A mountain biker, he recognized us as hikers and knew to stop and give us a lift. Where we stopped was only about five miles outside of town, so they had us dropped off at our motel in just about as much time as we had been waiting for a ride.
Checkin was at 2 pm, so we dropped our packs in a spare room at the motel and went next door to Waffle King for second breakfast. Once finished there, we walked to the food store next door and got a five-day resupply that will take us to the town of Reliance, TN. While waiting to checkout, CareFree’s phone stopped working properly. Remembering that it had similar misbehavior last year on the PCT between Skykomish and Stehekin, I suggested it was likely too wet. She took it out of its case to find literal puddles of water in the case. We figured it’d go like last time, and after some drying out, it’d be back in action.
Groceries finished, we went back to the motel and checked in. Showers after five days of hiking were glorious.
We also had a lot of wet stuff that needed drying out, most especially, the tent. Finding the ceiling fan practically inoperable (it was very slow and made a hideous metal shrieking noise each time it rotated), we put it to better use by hanging the tent from three of its blades, allowing the heater to blow nearly directly on it. This worked rather well.
A fifteen minute walk to the laundromat and $4.00 in quarters got us clean laundry. We were lucky to get soap, though. The soap dispenser was broken (and the attendant not present), but a lady doing laundry there gave us some of her detergent. There was also a power outage while the washer was running; fortunately, it only lasted a few seconds and the washer just needed to be restarted from where it left off.
Back at the motel, after dinner, we finished drying the tent and packed our food for the next leg of our hike.