We decided that pushing for Newfound Gap in the Smokes (mile 206) by April 12th would be too crazy. That would be 15 mile days until then. We aren't ready for that yet. So, the next spot we can meet is Stecoah Gap (mile 150). With less mileage, we have plenty of time for another zero when we hit Franklin. This will probably be necessary after the weather coming up. Two zeros in the first two weeks is a little cushy, but we will pay for it later. It started raining this morning just before we finished outing the tent into the stuff sack. Most of the other campers were packed up by the time we left at 8:45, but we found a few of them just decided to hold in the Muskrat Creek Shelter. We heard that this storm was going to be worse than the Jurassic flooding of two days ago, so we thought maybe they had the right idea.
The rain was hitting us pretty hard so the rocks and roots in the first stretch of trail were pretty treacherous, but before we knew it we had gone five miles and hit Standing Indian Shelter. Since we hadn't had any food since breakfast we headed up to the shelter to make some lunch. A whole crew of people were passing the storm in the shelter, including a napping 3Dub we spied briefly when he popped his head up from his cozy position in the back. He had just hiked 18 or 19 miles the day before, plus five this morning, so his resting was understandable. We made lunch and chatted with a fella named Will about birds, wildlife, and art. He had a watercolor pad and watercolors and was a graduate of SCAD. He also seemed to think he had heard of Papa Hutch. We heard the rain was supposed to get bad around 1, so we decided to wait until then. When the rain essentially stopped at 1, we weren't sure what to do. Shelters are dangerous and it felt easy to just hang there until we were sure it wouldn't start again, but, we pushed on. The rain did stop for the rest of the day, until we reached a jungle of rhotodendrons. But then we realized the rain was actually moisture condensing on the leaves and raining down. Is it still rain when you're walking through a cloud? We had noticed clouds flowing like rivers through the valleys when we were five thousand feet up on Standing Indian, and now what we had admired before was raining on us.
This didn't really change for the rest of the day as we headed to Carter Gap Shelter. While there, we booked a hotel in Franklin. Grant and Funky who just made it to Franklin after a crazy nineteen mile March to escape the rain called our phone to see if we were in Franklin too. We were not. One more day of bad weather stood between us and showers and resupply.