here comes the sun: days 36-38

Day 36: Knot Maul Branch Shelter to Jenkins Shelter, 20.1 miles
Day 37: Jenkins Shelter to Jenny Knob Shelter, 23.2 miles
Day 38: Jenny Knob Shelter to Docs Knob Shelter, 24 miles 
Total AT miles hiked: 626 

The rain finally stopped nearly a day after it began. We emerged from our shelter from the storm and walked off into the woods, happy to be on the trail again. It didn’t take but a few minutes for us to realize that while the rain may have stopped, it was still effecting the trail. The trail was supersaturated with water; at best a muddy mess, at worst a raging creek funneling down the path.
Our day brought us out of the woods and we walked a couple of miles through grass fields up to Chestnut Knob. It was damp and cool, making us glad we stayed in the shelter the day before. We walked in a cloud for the majority of the climb, before reaching an old fire warden’s cabin for lunch. 

Along the way, we also stumbled upon a crawfish walking along the trail! We weren’t near any water, although the ground was soaked, and couldn’t figure out how it got there. We though that a bird may have dropped it, but another hiker suggested posited another theory. They said that crawfish often search out a better habitat during wet conditions, and added that the reddish color on its sides may indicate that it is also looking for a female mate. They added that some species of crawfish even burrow in the ground, not needing a body of water at all. Nature is cool!

The rest of the day was uneventful, and we made it to Jenkins Shelter in good time. We didn’t see anyone all day hiking, but there were two section hikers at the shelter when we arrived, and another thru-hiker made it in a bit later. They all told us that the weather was miserable the day prior, and that staying out was definitely the right decision. After being wet from just being outside the day after, we were glad to have had a dry shelter again that night, as no surprise- it rained again that evening. 

The next day though, the sun finally came out for the first time in nine days! It was a routine hiking day, and we meandered down to the valley just to hike back up again. We made it to Jenny Knob Shelter, and were reunited with some of our hiking friends we last saw during the storm. They had ventured on from the shelter we’d saught refuge at, but only made it ten miles before calling it a day. It seemed like most people had similar stories of either holing-up, or just eeking out a half day. We’ve been favoring the shelters due to all the rain, and it rained again that night at Jenny Knob, despite he sunny afternoon skies earlier.

Fortunately the next morning the sun was out again, and it highlighted all the spider webs in the trees. Garrett took this good picture of a spider waiting for breakfast at the bottom of a funnel web.

We hiked 6.5 miles quickly to Trent’s Grocery half a mile off the trail, and picked-up lunch and a bit more food to get us to town the next day. The afternoon was spent traveling on still muddy trails, but this time through dense rhododendron forest. 

We stopped for dinner, not sure if we’d make it to Docs Knob Shelter, another 5.7 miles away. We were content with setting up the tent along the way, but moved more quickly than we anticipated with the fuel from dinner in our bellies and made it to the shelter just before dark. There were only three hikers here, guys we’ve become friendly with these past few weeks. We’ve been hiking similar miles, and so staying in the same shelters. When we arrived they welcomed us in, saying they knew we’d show up eventually! It’s been fun seeing familiar faces lately, and a change from the PCT where we only saw people a handful of times. We brushed our teeth, and crawled into our sleeping bags, as the last bit of light turned to night.