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Re: Lightning on the AT
Oh, yes, lightning---my favorite subject while hiking the AT. It seemed
that for all the incredible views I got (the Hump, Beauty Spot, Mt. Rogers)
I paid for it before or after by getting stuck in really nasty storms
on the highest point around. Essentially, if you get stuck in a storm,
just hunker down and ride it out. Some people who had Thermarests pulled
them out and sat on them while in a the middle of the storm for insulation.
The key thing is to make yourself as small as you can, and try not to be
crossing a bald or open area if you can plan ahead; otherwise, sort of Zen
with it if you get stuck in a really bad storm.
I and a partner got caught just before Big Bald in an awful storm where we
both saw big blue balls of lightning literally explode in the hollow next
to us. Upon that, we stopped and began to set up her tent in the middle
of lightning striking all around us (rather we screamed at each other so
we could be heard over the thunder--I kept thinking the lightning was going
to hit one of the tent wands at any moment as we were setting up). All
night long the storm went on around us with me and her and her dog in a
leaking tent. One of my worst nights on the trail--but the payback was
the incredible view from the Bald the next morning of the clouds below
clearing out--a sight I'll never forget. One hiker (Sybex and his dog Buck)
crossed the Bald during the storm--his entry in the Irwin hostel, was, shall
we say, interesting to read. (I believe he mentioned he was sure at one
point his hair was standing up rather smartly)
The next really bad storm was just below Whitetop. We had crossed US 58,
and could hear thunder rumbling (this was about 10:30 in the morning). The
air was still and thick. We got to the little stream past VA 601 and the
white house with the porch--we could see a really dark cloud coming across
the valley. Started up the grade on the side there, and then I heard a
sound like a huge whooshing freight train coming across the valley. I knew
what was happening--I dropped my pack as fast as I could, pulled my raingear
on, and then about a minute later it hit. For the next half hour my one
thought was "At least I'm not in Florida--more people die of lightning strikes
there than anyplace else". First came the hail for about 5 minutes--real
fun. Then came the lightning strikes all around. BAM! WHAM! BAM! so fast
and furious you really thought the end was at hand. Finally, it was over.
Continued on up to the bald on Whitetop, and once again was reward with an
awesome scene of the clouds clearing out---really, really striking scene
as viewed from the top of Whitetop.
I have other stories on lightning (Catfish tower in NJ and three hikers
under the picnic table), but I think you get the idea. Lightning for me
was an experience in learning how insignificant I was in Nature's eyes. I
have always been terrified of lightning--I had some really scary experiences
as a kid. I think one of things I came away with from hiking the AT was
seeing how I could deal with really scary (to me) situations such as these.
It really makes you think about things when you are on the highest point
around in the middle of an intense storm, and there isn't a doggone thing
you can do about it except ride it out.
Sorry I've gone on for so long--as guess you can tell I get pretty
wound up on this particular topic.