50 Shades of Grey/Rain (56-58)

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I think I’ve seen all of the shades of grey that the sky can muster, along with at least 50 different variants of rain. The skies have been grey and it has rained almost every day for the last month. Those of us on the trail are definitely tired of all of this rain.

Here in Virginia, we can at least take some solace in the fact that it is a record breaking amount of rain?! In the mountains the storms have been dropping 1-2 inches of rain/hour in bursts of scattered storms for days, which has led to record setting rainfall amounts and flash flood watches/warnings every day for the last week. Daily rainfall totals in the mountains have been: Monday= 3 inches, Tuesday= 4 inches, Wednesday= 8 inches, Thursday= 6 inches, Friday= 6 inches.

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Needless to say, this has caused the rivers, creeks, and streams to overflow their banks, and widespread flooding has been reported. This adds an extra element of excitement and challenge to hiking the AT. The trail becomes even more of an obstacle course.

The rainy day obstacle course includes the following challenges:

1) Trail or Stream? You have to try to figure out whether you are hiking on the trail or in a stream. White blazes may or may not be available to assist you in this quest.

2) Creek Fording. Just when you think that your boots couldn’t get wetter you come to a fast flowing flooded creek. Be prepared to take your boots off and pick your favorite route for crossing.

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3) Tree vaulting. With all the rain, wind, and the saturated soil, you can’t count on the trees to remain upright.

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When we’re lucky, the trees have fallen away from the trail and we avoid the obstacle, or the awesome trail maintenance crews have gotten there first and cleared the way for us.

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Sometimes, however, we come across a set of downed trees that the topsoil just couldn’t keep rooted anymore and we have to figure out if we’re going over, limboing under, or bushwhacking around the downed tree or some combination of all of the above.

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(Though the picture may not make it obvious, that was a combination of 3 downed tress, plus tree branches, that had freshly fallen. I had to climb branch to branch over as it was too dense to go under and the ravine I was in made going around it impossible. It created a blockade 5 ft tall and about 5 ft wide).

4) The mud slalom. Slick mud covers many parts of the trail threatening to either swallow your leg whole or to send you sliding down the slope in one awkward bound.

5) Critter craze. Try to hike faster than the snails, turtles, and newts in the trail. Also avoid stepping on and getting bitten by the snakes that for some reason prefer the wet weather.
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Here’s hoping for some slightly less rainy weather around here!
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If you’re curious about what this crazy weather is looking like in the cities near here check out: Crazy rain in Roanoke,VA area, where they report that there’s been 12 inches of rain above the average so far this year!

P.S. Speaking of the AT obstacle course, the stiles around the cow pastures are (too me) one of the most odious obstacles, especially when wet. Sometimes they are coated with poison ivy to make the challenge even more exciting.

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