Hiking and Backpacking Tips, Info, and Articles > Storm Stories
Storms became some of our most vivid memories of hiking the Appalachian Trail last year. Up until then, most hiking and camping consisted of nearby shelters, whether car or cabin, or a carefully planned weekend based on the weather forecast.
During our six months hiking the trail, there were a few heart pounding storms that I can remember like they were yesterday. Our first severe storm blew down on us near High Rocks, with an elevation of 4,100 feet, but not without warning. It was our own denial, and the fact that we thought we could make it to the campsite before she poured down upon us, that caused to us to be stuck in this situation.
Just before the peak we quickly learned what
would soon become our best known defensive measure to remaining calm.
With the thunder and lightning now upon us and pea size hail pelting
our skin, we proceeded back into the western or northern side of Whistling
Gap. Because of the severity of the lightning we sat up on our backpacks
to isolate ourselves from the ground. I've read about these situations,
but until that moment never had to rely on it. I kept thinking to myself, "How much difference
does this make and will this prevent us from getting struck down?" Well,
we're both here today, and that's good enough for me. Meanwhile, I had
pulled the ground cloth for the tent from my wife's backpack, and we
covered ourselves, shielding the wind and hail. It became evident that
keeping the ground cloth easily accessible was a necessity. Not only
did it protect us from the elements but more importantly it helped calm
our nerves. Was it the best idea to blind ourselves from the situation?
I don't know.
Storm clouds along the Appalachian Trail in Vermont
We were thankful to have made it to the shelter that evening without injury and so very thankful that a few other hikers made room for us to stay.
A lot was learned on our journey, so I'll leave with a few words of SvenSaw wisdom. Never try to out hike a storm if you have the option to stop before it hits. You'll never beat it. Remain calm and think before you hike more.
SvenSaw, a 2003 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, is co-editor of the HikeMore Online Newsletter.