The five of us ate dinner, repacked our gear, turned on our headlamps and stepped out into the dark. The hike up Roan Mountain climbs more than 2,500 feet over 8 miles. I think that everyone was very excited to do this because we started out much faster than I would've liked. Shortly after we started I was huffing and puffing and my shirt was completely soaked with sweat.
We toiled up the side of the mountain, carefully placing our feet into the small pools of light cast by our headlamps. We stubbed our toes, and stumbled forward, and each of us had our own personal cloud of moths around our heads. Around midnight visibility decreased. We were in the clouds.
By 2:30 AM the wind had begun to pick up, and it became apparent that a storm was approaching. The strengthening winds combined with our sweat soaked clothing forced us to shiver uncontrollably. It wasn't long before we found ourselves huddled behind a rock, teeth clenched and questioning the sanity of our plan. Still four more hours until sunrise.
"I have a tarp we can use to block the wind," Snail Trail yelled over the gale. The wind disagreed and blew even harder. Now instead of moths, clouds of suspended water droplets encircled us.
For two more hours we climbed, stomping stumbling and cursing the whole way. When No Filter yelled, "I see an overhang! I see an overhang!" I thought he was referring to one of those stations that show a map and a Do Not Feed the Bears sign. I pictured the five of us huddled behind one of these things, and I was strangely okay with that idea. When Snail Trail added "It's a bathroom!" I was even happier. "And it's unlocked!"
"We have running water!" Voldemort added.
We moved to the side of the building that was out of the wind and sat down against the concrete wall. It was nearly 4:00 AM and our bodies were beginning to shut down. While some rolled out foam mattresses or got into sleeping bags, I leaned against the wall, pulled my knees against my chest, closed my eyes and tried to sleep a bit. After this failed, I entered one of the restrooms, sat on a seat, put my forehead into the crook of my elbow, and actually dozed off for about half an hour.
At 5:30 AM we resumed our quest and began hiking again. By then the clouds were so thick we could barely see the hiker in front of us.
At 6:30 AM the sun finally rose and turned the dark mist into an ethereal ambient white glow. Previously hidden from us, all of the plant life surrounding the trail began to reveal their true deep green.
Roan Mountain is world famous for its views from the balds in the surrounding area. For miles, you walk along exposed grassy knobs with unobstructed views of the horizon many miles away in every direction. On this day we hiked surrounded by white mist occasionally broken by the pink explosions of blooming rhododendrons.
"I think I see a hint of blue sky!" I exclaimed.
Forager corrected me, "That's just wishful thinking."
"What time is it?" Snail Trail asked.
When Voldemort confirmed that it was 8:30 AM, we calculated that we had traveled 33 miles in the previous 24 hours. We found a flat slab of rock to sit on and enjoyed some breakfast in the mist. As we sat and ate, we were treated to a parade of day hikers and through hikers who had only recently awoken and begun walking.