What a great quote!
I'd like to think I'm always an optimist, but I admit that sometimes I don't
see the possibilities that obstacles and challenges present. Stormy weather is
one of those challenges for me, especially when I'm running or hiking in the
Nothing was harder for me on the Appalachian Trail than to get out of bed on
a rainy morning. Even in warm weather, I do not particularly care to run in the
rain. Walking in the rain is even more miserable. At least I can stay
warmer when I run.
On the AT I never looked forward to the storm clouds that spelled r-a-i-n
my future. Storms too often also spell d-a-n-g-e-r to hikers and trail runners. When
you're above tree line, as on a bald or ridge top, or you have to ford un-bridged
streams, approaching bad weather takes on urgent undertones. Lightning, high
winds, dense fog, heavy rain, sleet, or snow can cause hypothermia,
disorientation, losing the Trail, getting totally lost, slipping off a cliff, being
swept down a river, even death.
And on the AT rain meant I'd surely miss some great views. That happened
several times, most notably in the Smokies. And by now you know how I love to
Nope, I was pretty much a pessimist when storm clouds approached.
But as you can see from some of the following photos, I was ever the
opportunist, always on the lookout for a dramatic photo when I saw gray or
angry-looking clouds on the horizon! That illustrates a bit of optimism on my
part, I think.
That "silver lining," you know?
As you sit before your computer screen in your warm, dry home (or office), come along with me for a little while on the Appalachian Trail as storm clouds
gather in the distance . . .
STORM DRAMA IN THE SMOKIES
I thought it might rain on
Day 14, my first day in Great Smoky Mountain
National Park. There were gray clouds in the distance as I ran over one of
several balds early in the morning.
The Trail passed through this pretty orchard with blooming
trees under threatening skies:
I was fortunate that day to not receive any rain on the thirty-one miles I ran.
The sky cleared up by late morning and I could see the marvelous views for which
the park is famous. I was less fortunate the next two days in the Smokies,
Probably my most disappointing day on the entire Appalachian Trail was
16 in the Smokies. I was doing a very long roadless stretch north from Clingman's
Dome to Davenport Gap, a distance of over thirty-one miles
across some of the highest ridges on the AT.
I had read and heard that the views in this section were spectacular - on a
clear day. The day I ran it was rainy and I had only a brief thirty-minute
window of opportunity to see any mountains other than the ones I was running on.
I still regret that I didn't take a rest day. The next day was gorgeous and I
would have totally loved that section instead of slogging through it. But back
then I still had the hope that maybe I could set a new women's speed record on
the Trail, and I wasn't ready for a rest day.
Live and learn. The "silver lining" is that I got to see some very interesting
cloud formations that day, ones I may never see again. And I made good forward
progress. Fortunately, Jim and I live close enough to the Smokies to drive down
there and do this run again on a sunny day without too much fuss or expense.
These are some of the views I was able to get before and after Charlie's
when it wasn't raining:
(The last two photos above show the narrow side trail to Charlie's Bunion, where you
wouldn't want to slip and fall.)
OUTRUNNING THE CLOUDS
Less dramatic but just as interesting were the gray clouds between Hot Springs
and Sam's Gap, North Carolina, on
The next set of photos is around the Blackstack Cliffs
area. I didn't get in any rain that day, although it looked imminent at times.
What I consider to be some of the best shots I took on the entire AT are these
photos of storm clouds from
25, just north of Elk Park, Tennessee.
There is another
dramatic photo of "the tree" in the journal that day. Again, I didn't get wet,
but sure figured I would.
"GATHERING STORMS" IN VIRGINIA
Virginia had about eight days with gray clouds, and others with fog or
mist, but little or no rain where I was. I don't mind watching rain-laden clouds
if I don't get wet!
Here are several shots from Virginia of what I'd call "gathering" storm clouds. The first is
a view near Whitetop Mountain on
Even though I had a short run on
34 between Groseclose and Ceres, Virginia, the section was
very interesting. I wound up a hill through this lush green field, trying to stay ahead of
Soon thereafter, I followed the North Fork of the Holston River near Tilson's Mill, where I took this photo:
The next day also (35)
had some interesting gray clouds hanging over the lovely valley called
Burke's Garden, as shown in the next two photos:
Day 42 was on my "home turf" near Roanoke, Virginia. One of
our ultra buddies, Graham Zollman, accompanied me as we climbed popular
McAfee Knob . . .
. . . and Tinker Cliffs (below).
even see the long Catawba Valley from McAfee, but caught a hazy glimpse from Tinker
Graham and I felt sorry for the thru-hikers on that section when it was so
gloomy and the valley was obscured. We have seen the expansive views on clear
days and know how beautiful they are, but folks passing through that day missed them and
may never see them. Pity.
Dragon's Tooth also has the potential for great views of the Catawba
Valley to the north and east, but again on
Day 44 a blanket of clouds hid the far ridges:
Remember the James River Foot Bridge footbridge in Virginia? I found it
48 that the impressive footbridge, the longest on the entire AT, was
named after a fella named "Foot."
There were storm clouds gathering at the end of that day, too, as I crossed
the river. Fortunately, Jim and our dry truck were awaiting me on the other side
so I didn't get wet. You can see this whole photo in the journal on that day.
I cropped out Cody-pup in this version so I could put the emphasis on the clouds
and the bridge perspective.
GRAY CLOUDS OVER THE MID-ATLANTIC
Another bridge where I headed toward gray clouds was the Goodloe Byron
footbridge across the Potomac River between Harper's Ferry, West
Virginia and Maryland on
Jim and I both caught some gray cloud action in New York on
94. He took this photo up the Hudson River from an
overlook at West Point . . .
. . . while I was climbing up puddingstone formations on the
first of eight mountains in the section I ran that day. I felt like I was
running "into the void" on this one:
<sigh> I just counted the number of photos already in this essay and
realize that I need to continue with the New England states in the next essay.
While you're waiting for those shots, why not go out and run or hike on a
trail near you?? If it's sunny and dry, enjoy it. If it's wet and gloomy, enjoy
February rain or snow brings spring flowers, you know. Be an optimist!
Next up: storm drama in New England.