I wake at 5:30 am nestled in a sea of sleeping hikers wrapped in a rainbow of nylon, a faintly familiar if long unseen glow coming in the windows. This is not everyday May morning light. It has snowed. Multiple inches and is coming down like mad. So much for the storm blowing over in the night. I sit quietly and watch as others wake up and process what is happening outside. No one freaks out or even says a thing; there’s just a series of “huh” faces one after the other.
The weather report is not hopeful, with more of the same through the day and night, three to five more inches expected to accumulate. As the day progresses, the crowd grows restless. Some have been here for three days, after only two days on the trail. With energy to spare, we add more chores to our repertoire. Several hikers full out join the staff for the day, spending hours busing tables, waitressing and even chopping onions in the kitchen.
A group of three, all young guys, decide to venture out along the trail. Just as they are about to depart a local news truck pulls up excitedly, here to capture the weather event. After the hikers leave, I personally thank all the dudes under thirty still in the room for not needing to prove anything. The rest of us prepare to wait it out. We joke that we started in Washington by mistake. I look over and one group is playing scattegories under the table, trying to stay out of then way. Others talk about how there has been no snow this year, how the farmers, the state need it. I attend to an onslaught of email and phone business. I have good news to share soon, but for the moment it threatens to cut my hike short, which brings me to tears (no mom, not a baby).
Soon after, we are offered dry towels and hot showers, for free. More incredible generosity from the Pine House Cafe and Tavern. I suspect, though, that we are beginning to stink, and this is the alternative to throwing us out into the weather before the big event tonight.
It continues to snow and sleet and rain, alternating but without break. It’s 21F (-8C) with the windchill. New hikers continue to arrive off the trail, soaked and shivering. Some borderline hypothermic, others in soaked cotton t-shirts with nothing dry to wear. The two nurses in the crowd are called on to assess the condition of one man on the verge of danger, too cold and upset about being cold to tell us his name.
But we are all warm and dry now. As I write, a four piece country band of totally legit quality is performing live in the restaurant. Tables have been moved, and the owner has just come over to where we are blogging in the other room, urging us to join the dance scene. Which I just might have to do…