First thought -- aargh, scratch the Mount Rogers climb. Second, since southwestern Virginia was once again ignoring weathercasters who had predicted that this storm would arrive on Thursday, this would be a good "zero day" to hang out at the shelter, wait for the storm to pass, read a few e-books, catch up on naptimes I've missed recently. I started to drift back to sleep
Then I remembered the rest of the forecast, which talked about lightning storms in the evening. Not the best kind of weather to deal with sitting on the shoulder of Virginia's tallest mountain. Right, up. Leaving now.
Mud, heavy gray-white mist, frequent string winds blew over the open meadows as I descended. Many of the winds threw in some cold rain squalls, doubtless to encourage my quick departure -- but why wasn't the wind ever at my back?
After noon, the rain tapered off, but I kept up a fast pace along the trail and aimed to reach the next shelter by late afternoon. Many of my joint strain problems reappeared as well as the older problem of keeping a reasonable pace on uphill grades, but I made the Lost Mountain Shelter by 4 pm.
The high school class that had camped near Mount Rogers was already there, drying out their tents. We had swapped the lead several times during the day, since they were faster but more prone to gather and debate plans.
At one point, some of the girls declined to pass me and chose to follow along like a string of imprinted ducks. After a while, I pulled off and declared that I was getting too warm and was going to remove some layers. They moved on.
While they were following and by way of friendly conversation, I suggested to the one behind me that they should collaborate to prepare a poem or a rap chant about all the things that are fun about hiking in the rain -- that earned a snort -- they should end it, I said, with a line about their teachers buying them pizza and ice cream. That got a giggle that turned into a snort -- "As if that would ever happen," she retorted.
Well, I tried.
Other spirits were dampened, too. A thru hiker and I were chatting and watching the ridge winds hurl shreds of cloud and rain across the trail while he waited for one of his hiking partners. When "Peter Pan" emerged from the windblown mist, he brought the sad news that their other companion, chilled and confronted by wet boots, wet clothes, a wet sleeping bag, and drenched spirits, had given up the quest and headed home.
PP sighed and quoted a bit of thru-hiker wisdom, that one should never quit on a bad day. Bad habit -- I played devil's advocate and asked, since the thru hiking success rate is about one in five, how many chose to quit on a good day, then? I was ignored; a heretic, obviously.
Lost Mountain Shelter is located in a large stand of tall trees, a questionable blessing given the forecast. At least, the lightning storm held off until I had finished a rushed evening meal of quinoa, tunafish, and tea, had changed into dry clothes, had hung the bear bag, and had otherwise prepared everything for sleep.
It was a big one! Two of the lightning bolts hit close enough that there was no delay between the bright flash and the sharp crack and roll of a close strike. Safe in my tent, thinking of all the effort the high school group had put into drying their tents earlier, I nevertheless pushed my wet clothes out into the vestibule in vain hopes that they would dry.
After the storm passed, the high school crew engaged in some organizational chanting and singing, and a herd of noisy NOBO hikers arguing about whose turn it was to provide beer descended into the campground. Earplug time.