Check the weather (and sunset, too)

It’s a no-brainer, yet one we sometimes forget: Check the weather before going on an outdoor adventure. And, again it probably needn’t be said but I’ll say it anyway, check the weather for where you’re going, not where you are. There can be a huge difference between the two, especially during the transitional season of spring.

I’m packing for three days on the Appalachian Trail near Franklin, which means one of the first things I need to do is check the weather. Here in Cary, spring lasted about two days; temperatures for this week are expected to hit the summertime 90s. Here, it’s T-shirt, shorts and flip-flop weather. It’s supposed to be nice in Franklin, too, albeit with daytime highs 7 to 10 degrees cooler. Add in the fact that I’ll be about 3,000 feet higher than Franklin and I’m veering into long-sleeve and pants weather.

The difference is more important at night. In Cary, it’s supposed to get down to the low 60s, which to me is turn-off-the-HVAC-and-open-the-windows sleeping weather. In Franklin lows in the 40s are forecast. That affects which tent I take: The half-dome has significantly more mesh and ventilation, perfect for 60-degree nights but a little cool if the temperature drops into the 40s. The Arete ASL, on the other hand, is a tighter tent made for colder weather, but with vents to catch a breeze (and let out built-up body heat) should the temperature creep into the 50s. Cold-blooded me will go with the Arete ASL. The cooler nights also mean I should pack a light fleece pullover, maybe a wool hat and gloves or at least liners for when the sun goes down, especially if I want to sit outside and read by headlamp.

It’s warm enough in both places that my choice of cook stove isn’t an issue. I love the convenience of my gas stove, but cannister-gas stoves aren’t as reliable as liquid fuel stoves when the temperature drops below freezing.

Clear skies are predicted in Cary during my trip; on the last day it looks like rain near Franklin. Better pack the rain suit and my backpack cover, and make sure my sleeping bag and pad are wrapped in water-tight trash bags. And the Gore-Tex cap I just got is probably a better option than the cloth baseball cap I usually wear.

I thought I was done with my weather check when my wife asked something I hadn’t considered before: What’s the difference in sunset between here and Franklin? Well both places are in the Eastern Time Zone, I stupidly thought before realizing that Mother Nature and Ol’ Sol aren’t strict abiders to geopolitical designations. I checked and was surprised by the difference: The sun sets in Cary at 7:40 p.m.; official sunset in Franklin is 7:58 p.m. It’s a significant difference mainly because with a 6-hour drive ahead of me I’m expecting to reach camp late. Another 18 minutes means I won’t be as pressed for time.

And I can have another cup of coffee before I hit the road.

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