|Hike Name:||Chattahoochee National Forest - Rabun Bald|
|Trip Date:||November 10, 2002|
|Trip Weather:||Partly Cloudy, Cloudy, Fog|
|Trip Precipitation:||Rain, Showers, Thunderstorms|
|Trip Temperature:||High: 61-70, Low: 41-50 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Trip Report:||11/10/02: The Camel and I got a late start out of Atlanta this afternoon due to the house party last night. Hit the road around 2pm, and made a brief stop at Arby’s and the Pixies on the way to Rabun Bald. The Camel followed me to SR 105 to leave his car for pick up tomorrow. We drove to the trailhead by 4pm and started our hike to the firetower under mostly cloudy skies. According to the Weather Channel, the chance of rain was 30% tonight and 60% tomorrow morning. The Camel and I expected some showers after midnight, but we had no idea what was brewing.
After a slow and steady hike to the summit of Rabun Bald, we debated on where to pitch our tents. This was the first night that I camped on the summit when we had the place to ourselves. We considered setting up camp in the small site slightly downhill from the tower. In the past, this site was always occupied, but there were strong winds from the east tonight, and a lot of water was blowing from the soaked trees. The Camel and I decided to pitch on the west side of the firetower where the wind was less intense.
We had about thirty minutes to collect firewood before dark around 6pm. There were too many clouds to see the sun set this evening, but I think it fell below the horizon around 5:30pm. The Camel torched up his stove and dried out our miniscule supply of tinder for the fire. As we set up our tents, it self ignited but nearly went out a few times. So we pilfered some logs from a campsite down the trail and keep it going throughout the night. It was cold and foggy on Rabun Bald, and we thought the campfire would keep us warm. Unfortunately, the high winds made it too difficult to enjoy, and we didn’t get much heat from it tonight.
The Camel brought a tasty Spagetti dish with him that he precooked at home. It was delicious, but I was the only one to enjoy it since he was still full from his trip to Arby’s in Atlanta. So dinner went fast this evening, and The Camel and I spent the next few hours standing around the campfire, enjoying a few brews, and occassionally tucking our gear under our tents when sporadic but brief showers blew through the area.
Around 11pm, we decided to turn in for the night and I quickly fell asleep as lightening and intermittent showers rolled through the area. Around 2am, however, a major thunderstorm rolled in and the heavy winds completely flattened my tent. The Camel was better sheltered than I was, but the lightening was pretty intense and I prayed for the first time in many years. We didn’t know it, but tornados were pounding northwestern Georgia and 35 people died tonight. The winds picked up significantly as did the lightening, and I decided to don the raingear and move my tent. The Camel was snug in his bed, and was not excited about packing up in the rain. He decided to wait out the storm unaware of that the worst was yet to come.
Moving camp was easier than I expected, and I found a flat area about 50 yards from the summit that was tucked in the trees. The lightening, winds, and rains were increasing as I crawled back into my tent and within an hour they were severe enough that The Camel was ready to bail from the summit. Unfortunately, there was so much lightening he was pinned down and was afraid to move. All his tent stakes blew out and The Camel spent three terrifying hours in his tent. I was fairly sheltered from the storm, and actually fell asleep within thirty minutes and slept soundly until daybreak. I had to bury myself in my tent since it was leaking at the mesh screen, but for the most part the REI Half Dome head up exceptionally well.
11/11/02: The next morning, The Camel woke me around 8:30am. He’d been up since about 6:30am and was ready to hit the trail. There were still a lot of clouds laying in the low areas around Rabun Bald, and we snapped some pictures while we cooked breakfast. After a cup of hot chocolate, The Camel and I packed up and hiked off the summit in about thirty minutes. We had Huddle House on the brain and drove to Clayton by 11:30am for a late breakfast/early lunch.
From Clayton, it was about a twenty minute ride to SR 105 where Roger picked up his car at the Hampton Inn and we parted ways. I didn’t realize how serious the storm was until I got back to Atlanta and saw that it was the lead story on all the news channels. We were lucky we camped in northeastern Georgia, because the northwestern part of the state was slaughtered. For some reason, the Weather Channel and Yahoo forecasts completely missed this earlier in the day and we were unaware of the danger last night until it was too late.