Day Two dawns with heavily clouded skies. More rain is a very real possibility. Mary and I slept poorly, our clothes and boots from yesterday are still very wet, and in keeping with our late pattern, it is 9:00 by the time we are packed and ready to go. However, today’s hike is a mere 5.6 miles along the Appalachian Trail to Tricorner Knob shelter. There is some climbing involved up Mt. Sequoyah and Mt. Chapman, but on the whole, the course gently undulates over 700 feet and should be much easier than yesterday.
In fact, it is an easy, relaxing day. The clouds lift and thin enough to let in shafts of sunlight from time to time and reveal beautiful scenery along the AT. We find a geological survey marker embedded in a large, colorful slab of Anakeesta shale. There are signs of wild hogs rooting along the trail, and within the trail itself, large rocks have been flipped upside down every few feet. We speculate that bears have been turning them over in search of tasty insect treats, and as if to confirm this, we hear a large “huff” down slope while passing through a section of prime bear habitat.
There are also signs of very recent trail maintenance. Throughout the day, we see fresh cut foliage littering the trailsides. Some are so fresh the flowers have not even wilted. Thick, lush mats of mosses, cool lichens, and brightly colored mushrooms are in abundance. Skunk Goldenrod, Rugel’s Ragwort, and Appalachian White Snakeroot are in flower, with Whorled Aster waiting in the wings. Bluebead Lily, Witch Hobble, and Southern Mountain Cranberry are in fruit. Most beautiful of all is Pink Turtlehead in full flower all along the trail. We rest on a mossy bank for lunch.
In the early afternoon, the sky darkens and rain begins. We immediately get our gear on and pick up the pace. Close to the shelter the rain intensifies, but we are only a few minutes away and make a final run, arriving under cover just as a massive rain storm breaks wide open. A short run of gutter on the shelter hangs down into the living space and sends a flood of water running and pooling inside. Using a handy shovel, we attempt to trench the water to the other side, and with a bit of twine from Mary, Clarence affects a tentative gutter repair. The rain is coming down so hard we cannot hear each other without yelling, so we quietly watch as the shelter’s water source and privy trail become raging rivers.
Soon a very wet person shows up. He’s carrying a small pack and a weed cutter sling blade. Five others with a similar tool trickle in over the next few minutes. They are part of a volunteer AT maintenance crew working out of Tricorner Knob. Before too long another party of four hikers arrives, then a rather shell-shocked solo hiker, then a young couple. In all, there are 16 people in a shelter designed for 12. Two sleep in hammocks. Wet clothing is hanging everywhere. Fortunately, everyone is in a good humor, and we all get along well. There is just one lone snorer tonight, and his snoring is very soft and gentle – almost comforting.