Weather, weather, weather. Our lives out here revolve heavily around the weather. You discover quickly when you are outside all day long that the weather is rarely perfect. In the morning it’s too cold, you put all your layers on, then suddenly it is way to hot and you are stripping your layers off. Then, from out of nowhere the wind picks up and you’re freezing and pulling that recently shed layer our of your pack and putting it back on. However, we have been extremely lucky with weather. Until recently we had managed to time all our nero (near zero) days to match up with bad weather days. We have been blessed with lots of sunshine, cool mountain breezes, and clear nights. Until two days ago, when all hell broke loose.
It all started on Roan Mountain, we woke up in a cloud. Hiking off of the mountain was fine, we were in a dense spruce forest and it was cold but not too windy. Until we popped out of the forest and onto a bald. On a normal day this would be exciting, we love balds, they are wide and open, have really beautiful views, and lots of grass for laying around in and taking naps. But not this day. We were staring into a cloudy expanse of barren waste land where a chilling, fifty mile a hour wind, was whipping up the hill. And we walked through it, for ten hours. Normally we get to cross balds for maybe ten minutes but on this day we were crossing the roan highlands, a huge expanse of balds. We climbed up and down three different mountains with balds all over them.
I could not stand up straight. At first it was fun, novel, exciting, badass. We were yelling Lord of the Ring quotes and laughing at our situation. But after a while it started to be a little less fun. We had worn all of our clothes that morning because it wasn’t raining but it was cold. We figured we would take them off when we got warm. But the cloud blowing mist quickly had us soaked to the bone. Kyle had shipped his warm clothes home the day before and I was biting my tongue so I wouldn’t say “told you so”. Our faces were covered in tiny icicles and our sloves (sock gloves) were soaked through. We trudged on, putting one foot forward but getting blown off course by step three. The gusts were so strong you could lean on them, like they were solid. By the last mountain I was close to done, climbing up was the hardest thing we have done on the trail thus far. It was the first time I considered just sitting down but I knew there was no other way to get off the bald except walking.
And walk we did. For the last part of the hike we were walking straight into the wind. I didn’t think the wind could get worse until it was blowing straight down the hood of my jacket. We wondered if the bald would go on forever.
The amazing thing about the AT is that you can be completely miserable at one point during the day and then hours later you will be sitting in a warm hostel, dry and full of snacks, looking back wondering if that was really you. There will always be hard downs but very soon there will always be a wonderful up.