And so the rains continue as I spend 4 nights and 5 days on the Frog.
DAY TEN TRIP 141
A WILD MOUNTAIN
It's not cold and there's no snow but if I didn't have this tent and if I wasn't inside it during this storm I'd be hurting and probably dead because the wind is mean and the rain wet and cold. And it just keeps coming without end with more rain or less rain or fog or no fog or high winds or less winds. The Hilleberg handles it without complaint because the 14 pegs keep it secure and the Frog Mt trees keep it partially sheltered and if it doesn't have a bad bout of snow condensation it will keep you very dry from all sorts of outside rains or blowing fog or nasty horizontal windblown precip.
GET A TWO WALLED TENT BOYS
In these kinds of storms it's very excellent to have a fully enclosed 2 wall tent and a place to hole up for 2 or 3 days when Miss Nature decides to yawn and stretch. In the jungle, yes, the lion sleeps tonight but sometimes it wakes up and likes to play so boys have a shelter with no loose ends or compromises, a place you can seek out and stay warm and dry when the lion paws and slaps you around. A proven place barring disaster where you can stay comfortable in whatever comes and can sit thru the best Miss Nature has to offer on the highest mountain in your area, otherwise you won't know what it's like and you'll be scurrying around in a shelter with built in flaws and spending energy trying to find campsites to placate a half-assed shelter with problems right from the start.
Most every long backpacking trip has mini epic shelter events and these will present themselves if you stick to a desired route and not cower behind a rock in a bivy bag. In the Appalachians no place is off limits for the guy with the right shelter, even lightning storms can be endured on an open bald at 6,000 feet although your bung hole might get wrapped around your face as you squat and wait to die. No shelter will help in a lightning strike and little can be done once you set up at 7pm on a clear day and by 3 in the morning you're caught in a thundering hellstorm. Just guy out and sit put and listen to the locomotive pass and the buckets drench and the white zaps startle and the bolts flash like cannons.
But we're not complete idiots---if the radio pings alerts and the wee'tards warn of a terrible thunderstorm approaching with tornado winds, be sensible and drop into a valley wedge and squat to live another day. No one has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to arm wrestling nature and not heeding prudent warnings. You will always struggle and the stubborn macho individual struggles the most, especially with a substandard shelter. Every campsite is different but an excellent tent treats them all the same. Let me repeat.
EVERY CAMPSITE IS DIFFERENT BUT AN EXCELLENT TENT TREATS THEM ALL THE SAME
Bring something used and tested by those guys who climb mountains or who camp in the arctic. You will on occasion see the same conditions so be prepared. Is it overkill? Yes, except when you need it. Is it heavier? Yes, except when you need it. Don't start a trip to the mountains of TN/NC/VA with minimal gear and a minimal shelter cuz you will have compromised your comfort and safety right from the start before leaving home. It may look great on a list at home but it's gonna fail once and once is too much. On a list of shelter attributes, weight is the least important and yet everyone puts weight at the top of their list. This is caused by the current trend to go fast and light.
"Oh, but my 2 lb shelter worked great. Sure I got a little wet now and then but so what?"
"Sometimes my bag gets damp when it rubs up against the wet tent walls."
"I have a little ground water come in and onto my stuff."
"Spindrift isn't too bad cuz I use a bivy sack."
"I get some misting thru my single wall tent on occasion but so what?"
"If I can find the right campsite I don't worry about the wind."
These are common statements from guys using lightweight shelters. It's sort of pitiful. They will put up with and do everything possible to stick with their lightweight shelters, even accepting the occasional compromise in comfort. All to save a few pounds on their backs. No tent is perfect and even my Hillebergs have their flaws but let's face it, they offer much more protection than the lighter shelters so popular nowadays. Single wall shelters are de rigueur today but are often the worst choice in tough conditions because there is no protection from misting and dripping condensation which in a high wind will fling this moisture onto your inside gear. An inner double wall canopy keeps this water away 95% of the time unless you're basecamping in the snow at 10F. The solution then is to pack every day and move, or to carefully swab out the inner fly and canopy.
I had a major problem with condensation in my Keron tent on my Halloween blizzard trip but it was due to not packing up every morning and breaking off the ice formed on the inside of the fly. If you don't do this it builds up and seals you inside a cocoon of frost. If you need to stay put for several days in the snow as I did, take the time to pull the fly off and remove this ice and moisture, or if you're using a Hilleberg unclip the inner and swab the fly down from the inside. The inner tent only gets wet because the fly "weeps" but this water can be removed. Striking camp daily removes this water automatically and so when you set up again you'll have a wet floor with puddles which can easily be sponged out.
Other than epic storms, winter basecamping is the toughest test of a shelter. The ground is warm but the tent is frigid and the humidity is 100% and so condensation is inevitable. Don't cocoon up and stay in your bag in a fetal ball, be proactive and sponge off the canopy and inside fly. Do this twice a day as long as you're in basecamp mode and eventually the storm will stop and a dry wind will fix the problem.
It never stopped since I left Nut Junction Camp on Wednesday morning and now 3 days later I'm into my 51st hour of the stuff. Uh oh, this is starting to look like my January 2012 trip to Huckleberry Knob and the Snowbirds where I got hit with 153 hours of the same exact rain. We all know what happens after this rain---it turns to sleet and snow and everything once wet becomes cardboard stiff. I need to rain gear up and hike to the firetower peak and check my phone messages to see if Hoot got my message and caller ID phone number. Doubt it and who in god's name would want to come out in this crap?
It's 2 packets of McDougall's oatmeal with black walnuts and a tablespoon of cashew butter and a tablespoon of goat butter.
FRIDAY ON THE FROG
Yup, let's settle in and endure this long storm. Sometime during the day I need to pull a water run down the hill and also check the guyouts and pegs and go to Frog Hill for a phone check but right now the rain is coming down in sheets. Nobody and no backpacker will be hiking in this crap, guaranteed. I at first thought my zero days up here would be a capitulation to those demanding I'm nothing more than a basecamper and had this storm ended yesterday they would be right. Fact is, this weather is cause for a zero and at any other time I'd be pulling a zero no matter where I was. Sad fact is, Frogs live underwater so get used to it, boys. I'm on the back of the Frog and when it decides to jump in and hide underwater I go along for the ride. When the sun comes out he'll bask on a rock otherwise we're amphibians.
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT
Last night the radio threw me a bone and treated me to the Gabriel Faure Requiem. Now today I get to listen to the Durufle Requiem---two of my favorite pieces of music. The oatmeal is finished and now it's time to either lay back in a vegetative state or bound up and hike around the mountaintop. Luckily I get to listen to both the rain hitting my tent and the wind blowing across so there's comfort to be had in the natural sounds no man has made. Too often backpackers are assailed by Army helicopters or buzzing sport planes or distant sawmills or jake-brake trucks but then Miss Nature opens up a can of tumult wind and rain and all these artificial noises are blotted out by her music. Her wind eats our sprawl farts and for good reason and good riddance. "It's the sound of money!" the county commissioners howl as we sink to $17,000,000,000,000 in debt. We owe it before we even earn it. Miss Nature has a better idea.
After 3 days I need to string the bear line to hang out my gear but it ain't gonna happen as nothing has changed and it's exactly the same as when I got here 3 days ago---fog, rain and wind. Even though it's the start of their weekend today there will not be anybody coming up in this crap and I'll wager a hunk of goat cheese with this predication. First off, dayhikers won't leave home. Second, BMT thruhikers have bailed off the trail a couple days ago and sit in Ducktown or Chatsworth or Elijay. Regular backpackers like me won't pull a weekend trip to the Frog after they watch the weather report, not unless they are some motivated sum o' beeyatches SOB so this leaves poor Fungus in the swamp deluge as he goes from mammal to amphibian, from homo bonobo to croakus submergium.
A SHUDDERING TUBE WHISTLE
Gills are growing as we speak but unfortunately a nice pink set is growing out of my perineum where I need it least. Such is the prattle laugh-it-up humor of evolutionary biology. You WILL adjust to this kind of weather by growing all sorts of appendages and many of them useless. For instance, camping long term in high winds will produce a shuddering tube-whistle from between your legs which will spin in a great circle causing a high screaming noise. Useful? It does bring in the possums and obviously lets other campers know it's windy.
Another nifty growth is 2 vestigial hands growing from the temples to slap back at a tent slapping in the wind. It's called the Get Even gene. Finally, over time on Big Frog Mt your feet will grown a tissue-based snow boot complete with a lugged heel and goatee-like laces and a pubic hair felt-like liner. The first indication of this is noticing your entire crotch hair disappearing and moving thru the legs down into the feet. The body makes necessary sacrifices to protect its extremities. Human crotches rarely need extra warmth in tough conditions whereas the feet demand protection. In addition, the human head and scalp produces a thick sponge-like mass of hair which is used to wipe out water from inside a tent and looks just like a shamwow towel.
Backpackers who are stuck inside a tent for long periods of time during a storm often grow an alternate urethra and colon tube with attached rectum whereby all waste can be discharged from a tube down the right arm and out a hole between the thumb and index finger, so when the call of nature hits all a camper has to do is stretch his arm and hand into the tent vestibule and have at it. A swollen right arm with black and blue streaks means you're in for a rough night.
GETTING TO THE FROG
There are 8 ways to get to the Frog---
** Wolf Ridge from Pace Gap or Grassy Gap or Chestnut Mt. (3)
** Big Frog trail/Big Creek and West Fork BMT. (3)
** Hemp Top (Licklog Ridge, Hemp Top South BMT). (2)
Another zero day sits on my chest so I cook up a dinner of Kashi pasta with hunks of goat cheese and butter. It sits in the pot cozy and has 16 more minutes before eating. Two sticks of incense grace my camp as I listen to the wind bringing more rain and fog to the mountaintop. 60 hours of rain will make you a believer. As I was napping earlier I thought I heard someone call out "Walter!" but who and where? This is a fairly common occurrence and not the first time I've heard my name yelled out only to be an imaginary figment of my peanut sized brain. It's also common to be camping next to a loud creek and hear voices, yells and people talking. It's okay.
65 HOURS OF RAIN
The rain just won't stop and I'm going into my 65th hour of it and my 3rd night on top of Big Frog Mt. Of course the wind died down but the precip continues. I'm all alone on a Friday night so the Frog is just like the Bob when it comes to backpackers and inclement weather. They aren't scared they're just not fools. So poor Uncle Tweebus sits alone again snacking and listening to a new wind coming from the north. Soon all this crap will turn cold, really cold, and then what will I do? Suffer like everyone else.
A new downpour hits the tent at 6:30 and it's slicing across the tent in a ferocious manner. I detached the inner to smear some McNetts silnet sealer on an obvious leak on the middle hoop right side where drops come in and drip on the yellow canopy which keeps them out of the inner tent. Here's another excellent reason not to be inside a single wall tent as even the best (like Hilleberg) can leak with enough rain, especially thru pinholes or thru seams---even taped seams will leak as with my Integral Designs MK3. The second inner wall protects you from these inevitable fly leaks and a single fly will leak over time and with age. Do not therefore depend on a single wall tent in tough conditions and I call a 65 hour January rain tough conditions.
I have one more zero day for Day 11 and then on Sunday I hope to leave the Frog and either do Licklog Ridge to Rough Creek (big crossing on the East Fork) or take the Big Frog trail down to Low Gap and beyond to the pond and the campsite at the Rough Creek jct. Who knows? I may be stuck up here for a week till Day 15 giving me 3 days to return to Thunder Rock for evac. With all this rain I don't want to be anywhere near a creek crossing and certainly not the Jacks. That's a nightmare river right now and for me I gotta stay on the north side of it at all costs. I could take FS 62 to Beech Bottoms and cross Beech Creek for a looksee at the falls in high torment but I'd have to leave tomorrow to do so and that's not gonna happen. Let's live in the Hilleberg another couple days and then see what happens. The wee'tards say this will keep up till Wednesday. Yikes.
big frog mt