Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Pina Colada, and I've always felt strange liking a song about blatant infidelity, but it's catchy tune and getting caught in the rain doesn’t sound so awful when you live in draught-stricken Southern California. Tucker’s and my hike to Storyteller Rock on Saturday gave me ample opportunity to assess exactly how I feel about getting unexpectantly rained on.
Grandfather Mountain was one of the two remaining must-hike places on my list before leaving Asheville. (There were many more hikes I still wanted to go on, but narrowed it down to just two for the last few days in town.) It being 4th of July weekend, I knew I’d run into the annoyance of tourists. The deeper we got into summer in Asheville, the more abundant the species became around town. The past few weeks on my drive home from work, dodging people wandering slowly across the street or people in cars in front of me driving 3 mph to find a parking spot or just not knowing where they were going, I often heard myself muttering the angry phrase I hadn’t heard myself say since I lived in the Berkshires in the mid-1990s: “fucking tourists.”
Figuring that the Blue Ridge Parkway was the one place tourists would be driving well below the posted 45 mph speed limit, I chose to hike to Storyteller Rock near Grandfather Mountain, but not in the park proper. I didn’t know that the main entrance to Grandfather Mountain was actually on Rte 221, the route I was taking to avoid tourists and end up with a .8 mile hike longer than if I started at the Parkway.
The park traffic coordinators had a plan in place to get non-attendees around the traffic, so it was only a minor delay. All other delays were self-inflicted.
I had the GPS coordinates for the Asutsi Trailhead, and Google maps translated it into an address. I followed it, but found “Private Property” signs around the area the trailhead should be. I espied a little blue diamond on a short stake some way off into the woods, and suspected this was the trailhead, but there was no parking area—just mowed lawn. It looked like a front yard, not a trailhead. So I kept driving.
Tucker disagreed with me. “According to these instructions, we already passed it.”
I parked and left room for at least two more cars. The trailhead gave pertinent information such as “sign in at the trailhead if you going into the State Park area,” and “Grandfather Mountain creates its own weather patterns. If you hear thunder, you’re already too late. Return to your vehicle immediately.”
I hadn’t brought a rain jacket and it was overcast, but it was sunny back in Asheville and anyway, the hike was only a few miles. We’d be back in a couple hours. There were tons of tourists going to Grandfather Mountain. It couldn’t rain.
Tucker and I took the slightly overgrown trail under the Parkway and out to the main Nuwati Trail. We signed in, and up the hill we went toward Storyteller Rock. It was not like Greybeard at all; just an easy incline of a few hundred feet.
I could hear the occasional rain drops, but the trail led through the forest and the trees’ canopy protected us from all but a few droplets.
The trail was rocky but easy, and we enjoyed jumping over streams and negotiating the rocks that stuck up through the trail like a streambed.
It was uneventful but peaceful hike and Storyteller Rock, although not having sweeping views of the Mountains, had a certain energy of peacefulness and creativity.
However, the novelty of the experience wore off after about twenty minutes. By then the light refreshing rain had turned into a torrential downpour. The trees no longer kept us semi-dry. The trail which had resembled a dried up streambed when we started was now a full-on creek. The water rushed downhill following and surpassing us on our descent. Tucker tried to speed ahead, and I tried to slow him in order to keep us both from slipping on rocks.
We caught up to people in front us who had smartly carried umbrellas. I never ever think to hike with an umbrella. It’s hard enough for me to stay upright with my inferior motor skills while holding a leash. One more accessory and the probability of an entire collapse would be imminent. This also explains why there is no visual documentation of this portion of our journey.
Tucker blew by the people with umbrellas and as the closer we got to the bottom, the deeper the trail became. The waterproofness of my shoes failed, and I felt water all around my feet and between my toes. I wondered if this is what gel insoles would feel like. It wasn’t completely unpleasant but I didn’t imagine it was very good for me.
My pant legs soaked the water up, and eventually every piece of clothing I was wearing was completely wet. Had I been completely naked (the thought crossed my mind) or wearing appropriate swimwear, it would have been a rather enjoyable experience. But wet cotton and wool just aren’t fun.
We took a brief break under the parkway so I could unsuction my tanktop from my body and ring out the shirt I wore over it. My backpack was soaked. It wasn’t until I got home that I found out that the water resistance of that had failed, and I had a puddle inside my backpack.
By the time Tucker and I came to the clearing to see my trusty steed, the rain had pittered away to an occasional drop. I can’t say if the storm moved on or if we moved out from under the storm. Either way, it gave us opportunity to towel off before our drive home.
Our second to last hike we didn’t experience the usual sweeping vistas of the mountains, or let nature be our agility course. But it was a unique experience, and now I can say for certain: I do like getting caught in the rain—but only for short amounts of time. Tucker, however, would prefer to stay dry.