Woke up to a crack of lightning and heavy rain this morning! It is currently 43 degrees outside with heavy cloud cover and thunderstorms. Water is flowing aggressively down the mountain, creating miniature cascades along the way. We have already received 0.3" of rain this morning, so bring your rain coats! If you are planning on making the climb today, be aware. High winds over the last few days have downed many large trees, some of which are blocking the trail. During my time on Alum Cave trail, I came across two problematic downed trees, both of which are barely maneuverable. In addition, there are sections along the severe slopes of Monotony Ridge where copious trees have fallen, which could potentially be dangerous. There is also 1 large tree down on Trillium Gap trail, and I am yet to traverse the other three trails. Those planning on hitting the trail, be on the lookout for some obstacles along the way...
Yesterday's high was a comfortable 49 degrees, with a semi-comfortable low of 42. It was partly cloudy all day, but I thoroughly enjoyed being out and about! Very pleasant hiking temperature; not too hot, not too cold! Grey skies and light cloud cover made for some moody landscapes. Other than the downed trees on Alum Cave, I paid a lot of attention to the surrounding tributaries. Water levels seemed very high, swelled creeks looked wider and deeper! While admiring the creeks, I reminisced about all the brutal hikes in the park I completed with "unbridged" creek crossings. With Alum Cave being the most popular trail in the park, wooden creek bridges are a must. Some of the park's less popular, seldom-traveled trails do not have that luxury! Next time you are crossing one of our beloved log bridges, be thankful and appreciative of the trail crew's work. Traveling in the park would be a lot harder without their help!
"I threw my unusually light pack on my back, stunned at the true weight of my provisions. The time was 6:17 pm. With darkness already converging on me, climbing by my lonesome was not my first choice. Each stride felt intimate. Aside from the rushing creek, not a sound was uttered. Loose legs and less weight, I held my head high as I trotted along the path. Advancing quick while passing several well-known landmarks, I reached the deadly stairs beneath the cave bluffs. No matter how strong an individual is (physically or mentally), these stairs will break you down. I braced myself before greeting the first step, the second, and even the third. About halfway up the dreaded staircase, I caught a glimpse of something. Two yellow eyes floated at the top of the stairs, looking dead at me. Stopping clean in my tracks, I kept my distance as the eyes moved closer. My headlamp revealed a fairly large bear underneath the cave bluffs. I moved toward the beast, trekking pole in hand, speaking in a clear and calm tone. The bear scoffed and darted into the nearby brush, I wasn't worth his time. For the next quarter mile, I could see the eyes watching me from the forested slope beneath me..."