We reviewed the weather reports and knew that rain was the story for the day with the exception of a small but ample mid-morning window. We assembled our family, located our hiking sticks, and donned our gear, making sure to include plenty of drinking water and snacks in a handy backpack. Off we went for our first trek down Dugger Creek Trail in Blue Ridge Mountain Club (BRMC), leaving at the trailhead located across the street from Watson Gap. The sky was bleak, the ground was muddy, and we were anticipating having the time of our lives.
The plan sounded good … our group had just enough time before the next rainfall to hike the 5 ½ miles down to Boy Scout Camp and ride back up to Watson Gap on the BRMC ATV that was to be left there for us by some very kind friends. Having never been on the trail, we were amazed and in awe of the numerous waterfalls, the flora and the fauna decorating the mountainside so close to the “civilization” of our new neighborhood.
The first stream crossing was not too far from the trailhead and it was thrilling to see the water rushing beneath our feet as we attempted to hop across the stream on just the right rocks … not too slippery, not too loose, not too deep, in the water! We continued to enjoy each and every stream crossing until we lost count at about 25. The trail was beautiful, but the going was slow, given the mud, the high water and we less-than-nimble old folks leading the way.
Three hours into the hike, we still had not reached the Boy Scout Camp, nor had we seen any sign of an ATV, nor did we know with 100% certainty exactly where we were on the trail (we had our trusty map, but that wasn’t helping much … I need intersections, street names and very clear landmarks to find my place on a map!).
The sky began to darken, the wind picked up, and the air turned cooler and more wet. Suddenly, we began hearing thunder rolling in the not-so-distant distance! What?! Who said anything about a thunderstorm – we were anticipating rain and had all the right gear to keep us from getting soaked, but lightning?? At this point, I’m beginning to get concerned that we have taken a wrong turn (even though we didn’t actually TURN), that we would never find the ATV, that there is no cellular signal, that lightning can kill you if you don’t take shelter, and that we had better start finding a nice, dry cave to hunker down and ride out the storm. Too bad if there’s a bear in the cave – out he goes!
My much younger and stronger cousins decided to run ahead on the trail and see if they could find the shelter and the ATV. Twenty minutes later and many, many, many lightning pops later, they returned and indicated that they had found the camp and that we needed to “call for the ATV.” Excuse me? The ATV was supposed to be waiting for us – if they found the camp, and there was no ATV, we had better start shoving that bear aside! As we all begin to feel a little hint of panic (okay, I admit, mine was much more like a scream than a hint), we saw the ATV trail running ahead of us. We followed that trail over a couple of streams and saw the Boy Scout Camp shelter and a glorious, incredible, powerful ATV sitting beneath it just waiting for us to hop on.
As we pulled out from under the shelter, the skies opened up and down came the rain in a torrential downpour. We navigated the swelling streams and the slippery slopes to get up to the main road, laughing and squealing as we went. Just as we pulled out onto the road, the hail began. Yes, I said, “hail” – THAT wasn’t in the weather forecast either. As the cold rain fell and we were pelted with pearl-sized hailstones, we continued laughing like crazy and thanked our good Lord for holding the fireworks until we were safely under cover.
And with that said, the moral of the story is this … never trust the weather report, but get out and PLAY NOW anyway!