Expedition five started with spectacular weather. We all clambered onto Ike, the bus, with our gear and drove to the Damascus, VA section of the Appalachian Trail where we would be starting our journey. After hiking a few hours we arrived in camp, cooked our food, had a class, and headed to bed. My tent partner Austin and I looked forward to waking up and seeing sunshine peeking through the tops of the trees.

Unfortunately, when we awoke on day two, it was to the sound of raindrops on our tent fly. We continued along the Appalachian Trail, gloomily hiking uphill in the rain to Saunders shelter. During one of the half hour breaks in the downpour, we managed to get a fire going, and even dried out a thing or two, but that night brought even more rain, and Austin and I huddled in our damp sleeping bags as our tent failed to ward off the onslaught of water from above.

To no one’s surprise, the next day’s hike was accompanied by rain. Upon arrival at Creek Junction, where it was still pouring, we were told to get inside our tents and keep warm. That night went swimmingly well, quite literally, because there was a pool of water in our tent the size of a swimming pool.

The next morning we were successful in starting a fire and drying out our gear when the rain finally let up for good. By way of the Virginia Creeper Trail we hiked to our next camp at High Trestle. To our surprise the rain never came back, and the evening was mild. Our fried lentils and rice were delicious and our sleep was sound.

The rain came back, and our next day’s hike was, to say the least, treacherous. The trail was long, uphill, and arduous, and, to make matters worse, the steady rain evolved into freezing rain as we climbed higher. We made it as far as the Tri-State Marker when the weather forced us to stop short of our goal. At around 5:00 p.m. the freezing rain turned into heavy snow, and over night weighed our tent down to the point where we were very squished.

The next morning was difficult, but everyone pulled through without injury. It was very cold, and I put socks on my hands as an extra layer of insulation. Breaking down the tents was a chore due to the cold, but everyone helped out to get the job done. Hiking out in the deep snow was tough, but “tank-treading” made it easier. After finally making it to the pick up point we were treated to hot showers and a delicious meal.

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