Today I was anointed with water. Lots of it. Rain. Even freezing rain.
The rain gave me valuable experience with my gear. In rain as constant as we had today (It continued until 2:30PM), you don't have a prayer of keeping dry. What you hope for is that your choices of clothing keep you warm when they're soaking wet. Mine did, and for that I have to thank Mountain Hardwear -- their rain jacket sheds water but still breathes, and their Compressor insulated pants feel as warm against my bare legs soaking wet as they do dry. There's something about the inner lining of these pants that feels soft and warm even when you first put them on on a frosty cold morning. See the December 18th post for photos of both these worth-their-weight-in-gold clothing items.
At the beginning of the day I was a doubter. How could I hike comfortably (relatively so) while getting soaking wet with temperatures in the low 30's? But with enough of the right layers, I now know I can. The only thing we didn't have today was wind - it was still and foggy.
At the beginning of the day I would have been happy to have hiked a few miles and learned a few lessons. I did the latter and still got in a full day's hiking--14 miles.
Along the way I had the pleasure of the company of just one brave soul today: a long distance hiker whom I walked with for a couple miles. 'Peter' started in Harper's Ferry on December 10th and is headed for Springer Mountain. He loves winter hiking and is carrying snow shoes in hopes of some deep accumulations. He wasn't complaining about all our recent 60 degree days, but what he really loves is the hard core stuff. I expect he'll get some, particularly up at 6000 feet in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
In the evening before scouting out tomorrow's parking access, I took time to check out two old covered bridges in the area around the little town of Newport. Here's the 1916 Clover Hollow Bridge along Highway 601: