The Blatant Disregard of Changing Weather
May 27, 2017

We spent the afternoon swimming in Watauga Lake. Storm clouds were meandering overhead, but we weren't terribly concerned. All day they had rolled in and rolled right back out. It looked like another false alarm. After eating our fill and lounging with the resident geese, we got back on the trail, which bordered the lake. We got about a mile down trail when the heat had us diving right back into the goose bump inspiring water. It took another half hour to get up the courage to begin the next climb. We would have to hike uphill for nearly six miles before the next water source. The brutal terrain, humidity, and lack of water left us dehydrated and exhausted. Finally, we crawled up to the spring with nothing but will power. 

It took some time to refill my completely depleted reservoir. It's called "cameling up" when you drink as much as humanly possible before moving on. The peanut butter Cliff bar I attempted to eat felt like it got thicker the more I chewed. I gave up on the power bar and swallowed a hand full of snack sized snickers. I needed one more sugar rush to make it to camp.

The sun was setting, and the air was heavy as we dragged heavy feet into camp. We quickly calculated a lack of space in the shelter and limited tenting options. Despite the thunder in the distance, the consensus of the group was to night hike to the next campsite, four miles out. I silenced my screaming subconscious and fell into line. It was the only option that would keep the majority of the group together.
Night hiking was eerie and tiring and simultaneously thrilling. It became especially interesting when the storm rolled in hot and heavy. My immediate thought was, "guess we'll find out what Petzl means by water-resistant."  The thunder and lightning were just a few miles off as we scurried over the ridgeline and prayed for the campsite to be on lower ground. The rain pelted us with drops that felt more like the tentacles of stinging jellyfish.  We finally poured into the campsite soaked and mud-covered, only to find that it was a giant bowl. It would be a lake by morning! We had no choice but to claim spots along the edges on steep inclines. 

We ate in our tents (I know poor camp practice, but I guarantee the bears were hiding from the storm as well). The eight of us attempted to carry on normal dinner conversations in our separate tents by yelling over the wind and rain. 

By morning, the sun was strong, and it sounded like we watched a high adventure film by the way we were recounting the night's events. It could probably be classified as comedy as well. I'm just glad it wasn't a tragedy. I think it's safe to say, "Lessons learned!"


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