On the third afternoon I was pretty much on target. Just reloaded at my Jamieson-Licola Rd drop barrel. A misty fog had rolled in and it was getting late so I opted for the low road around Mt Skene. Then the rain started. Drizzle at first. But gradually stronger and like the frog in the boiling water I was soaked through before I realised. No problem, I carried a dry set of sleeping clothes. I made it to Rumpf Saddle and found a cosy site on a bench amongst some small trees above the clearing. I set up the tent quickly and stripped and crawled inside and put on warm, dry clothes and made up my bed. No hot dinner tonight.
As the darkness took over I soon realised the rain pounding on the tent was coming through. To my horror with every heavy drop a misty spray was being transmitted. I mopped the moisture with my small cloth repeatedly but it was going to be a long, sleepless night. As soon as I would doze off the spray on my face would wake me again. My down sleeping bag stood up well with it's lightly water-resistant shell but by morning it was damp through and my sleeping mat was soaked. I packed up my bedding and night clothes to avoid more exposure to the water and put on my wet socks and rain pants and jacket and wrapped myself in my space blanket to ride out the day of rain.
Another night of similar but less heavy rain and my spirit was broken. Decision time. I could take an uncomfortable situation and create a dangerous one by going deeper and higher into the mountains with wet and dodgy gear. Or I could hike out to the nearest town and give up. Not ever wanting to put myself in a situation that forced others to come rescue me if I could avoid it, I hiked the 43kms to Licola and got a ride home.
Sitting in the sun this morning I wondered, as we always do when we quit before the end, if my decision was a little soft. Then I remembered what the conditions were like and how much worse they can get and how dangerous it could be wet and exposed to the elements. In hindsight my error lay in trusting an untried piece of critical equipment. With a dry tent I would still be out there. A day slower but still going. Lesson learned. The hard way. I still got to spend 5 days out in the mountains. I saw some spectacular country, awesome snakes, and climbed some killer hills. I conquered the dreaded Black River that has given me nightmares since the last time. And I came home safe.
I have sent Dave Byrnes my best wishes and some tips on the trail. I will watch his progress eagerly. Beau was still going as of yesterday and aiming for Falls Creek Friday night. A great effort and he now has the toughest trail ahead but will be hardened and should be ready for it.
Thanks to Phil for the line of communication and Dave McK for monitoring the safety watch and my wife for supporting my effort and driving all over the country to drop me off and collect me.