We arrived and started our hike to the top of Table Rock around 9:30am. On the trail, Rick was doing a great job pointing out all the roots and stumps to me so that I wouldn't fall. The ones he failed to point out, he stumbled on. The weather was a bit cool Saturday morning, somewhere in the 50's. I was wearing jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. I had another shirt in my pack in case it got any colder. Rick was wearing a button up, collared, short sleeve shirt and jeans. I'm not sure who dressed him to hike in a shirt suitable for church, but he was the best dressed hiker we would see all day. The cold weather was no issue for us once we got going. In fact, we were sweating and I complained about carrying the weight of an extra shirt.
We were about thirty minutes up a two hour ascent when we first heard thunder. Not much later we saw some lighting and the sky got darker. After one especially close lightning strike, we stopped and looked around. We talked about turning back, but neither one of us was willing to be the cause of missing the goal and we pushed on. As the lightning continued to strike, one group of hikers that we had passed early on had turned back. It wasn't raining yet, but we knew it would be soon. The sky continued getting darker and the thunder louder. I didn't want to turn back, but I worried that some areas of the rock would become very slick in the rain.We wouldn't know it until we got home, but here is the message that was put out by the National Weather Service (restated on the local news):
updated 9:53 a.m. ET, Sat., March. 29, 2008
GREENVILLE, S.C. - A severe thunderstorm warning was issued just before 9:30
a.m. for parts of the Upstate. The warning area includes Transylvania County in
western North Carolina, southeastern Jackson County in western North Carolina
and northern Pickens County, northwestern Greenville County in and northeastern
Oconee County in the Upstate.
The warning is expected to expire at 10:15
a.m. Doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing penny
People in the path of this severe thunderstorm should be alert
for large hail and damaging winds.
lightning and locally heavy rain can occur with any thunderstorm. Seek shelter
indoors away from windows and doors until the storm passes.
hail to the size of pennies is the main threat with this severe thunderstorm,
brief damaging winds could also occur.
A small pile of rocks mark the highest spot on the hill. As I approached the pile, I picked up a stone and added it to the pile.
My hands were numb from the cold as we started moving down hill. The hike we had planned was a relaxing hike. We planned on enjoying the amazing scenes around us, the singing birds, and the fresh air. Instead we were focused on not slipping in the mud, we were soaking wet, tired, and shivering in the cold air.
Roughly at the half way area there is a small shelter that we agreed to stop at for lunch.
Within fifteen minutes, my entire body had become cold. Rick joked that our body temperatures were falling below a survivable level. We cut our break short so that we could keep moving and warm up. We daydreamed of being in the car with the heat running as motivation to keep going.
Sitting in the car, Rick turned the heat on high. I slouched in the seat for a moment as I thought about what we had just done. Anyone else would have turned back long before reaching the top in those conditions. Most would have complained about the miserable and dangerous weather. Not Rick. We enjoyed the experience together. We had talked and laughed the whole way. Rick and I had just completed an amazing hike that we will never forget.