Thursday, June 18

too much rain over virginia

On Tuesday, a friend from NYC bused here for what had originally been planned as a two day hiking excursion in southern Virginia. Alas, the weather gods would not let it be; a sixty degree, all-consuming front of precipitation moved in from the west and rooted itself on the eastern seaboard. However, we refused to admit defeat and decided to try our luck in Shenandoah NP.

A light rain rebounded off the windows as I explained our backpacking itinerary to the park ranger. Descend some hollow*, summit a few peaks, find a mostly, not totally, sopping wet campsite, make a futile attempt to dry off, sleep and pack-out in the morning. No ten minute conversation has ever produced such varying looks of incredulity, but the ranger registered my car and issued a backcountry camping permit. Ultimately, the permit would be useless.

The Vibe ascended SNP’s thoroughfare, Skyline Drive, and the clouds came down to greet us. Forty miles of driving rain and zero visibility later, I hesitantly suggested we adjust the plan. When I leaned over the railing at an overlook and saw nothing but gray and at twenty feet the Vibe disappeared in a fog thick enough to be manipulated with my hands, the plan changed.

We decided upon a much shorter, eight mile hike into a canyon featuring several waterfalls.

The whole experience was rather surreal. In the rain, the park regains some of the dignity years of human interference has stripped away. The wildlife emerge from hiding as jean-clad tourists and their raucous children retreat to the city. The only sounds are that of rain pattering the canopy above, the occasional breath of air, and streams raging through the hollows and canyons with a renewed sense of purpose. And the foliage, wet with rain, is overwhelmingly vivid.

As we hiked, the rain created an melancholy atmosphere that encouraged silence and introspection. When words were exchanged, the conversation centered on the direction of one’s life and the analysis of relationships, past and present. Each time the trail approached a cliff’s edge, the trees parted for a view of nothing but gray mist. The contrast felt as though we had found a narrow plane of existence and beyond the thin layer of green on either side of us was a cold nothingness. We had stumbled upon purgatory.

After the hike, and our figurative and literal cleansing, the question was whether to camp or not. There was no mountain to climb or weeklong expedition to continue, so we saw little point in further dirtying ourselves (and the still-clean equipment) for the sake of camping. However, with the aid of Taco Bell and The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, we again refused to accept defeat…

An Appalachian term for a broad riverine valley, essentially a wider and less steep ravine.

No comments:

Post a Comment