A reminder we are winter backpacking.

Day 15

Hiked today: 14 Hitched today:31.5
hiked total: 236.0
to katahdin: 1942.3

waking up to the blistering cold is not fun, especially not after 3 days of cold and wet weather. All three of us (beaver, Andy, and I) woke up at our normal time and packed up. While I packed the tent, Andy made our breakfast (which is a peanut butter sandwich with honey and dried fruit.) The only problem was, it was hard as a rock. The bread was pretty much frozen, and he couldn't get any honey out because it was so cold. We started out towards the highest part of the AT, Clingmans Dome, at 6643. This was only 2.5 miles away so it wasn't too bad of a hike, especially since the incline wasn't too steep. However, it was FREEZING. I said it was cold yesterday, but our beards were frozen, there was three inches of solid ice under fresh powder, and we were all dehydrated from lack of available, unfrozen water. For the first 20 minutes of our hike, I thought I was going to lose a finger, or 10. My hands were numb and I lost feeling in them for a while. They started warming up, but I was in my long sleeve, down jacket, and rain jacket, and I was still pretty cool. For those who know me, I don't get cold very easily.

We got to the tower which is at the top of Clingmans, and it was a wheelchair accessible ramp up about 100 feet. It was frozen nearly the entire way up. We were pulling ourselves up with the railing to prevent from sliding down. We got up there, the wind was blowing, we were freezing, took a picture and started down the slide. I kid not when I say slide. Jay actually sat down for a while and slid down the ramp. We got back to the AT and go onwards, which is mostly a descend for the rest of the day. It took us about half an hour to go a quarter of a mile. There wasn't much fresh snow here, so we were just walking on sheets of ice. Our poles couldn't break through it, and we were all sliding around. Between the three of us, we easily fell 10 times. It was literally like ice skating down the mountain with the only thing preventing us from sliding to our doom were our poles. Imagine a frozen waterfall at a 45 degree angle. Thats what we were dealing with. Eventually we just sat down and slid for about 10 feet. It was at that point where we realized we could, and most likely would, get injured. Even if it was just a pulled muscle, we would be off the trail for about a week. So we went back to the tower and followed the 11 mile road down to the highway.

First off, the road wasn't that much better than the path. It was still incredibly icy, and we probably all fell just as much if not more along it. I tell you, walking down that icy, snowy, winding road, was not fun. It was boring, mentally depressing (since we couldn't be on the AT,) and flat out annoying. We eventually got down to Newfound Gap where we meet up with the AT again, but made the executive decision to not risk the ice any longer. We waited for a while to get a ride into Gaitlingburg, TN where we would get a shuttle to Davinport Gap, TN where the hostel we planned to stay tomorrow night is. We were sitting in this touristy parking lot filled with people from Florida (there were easily 5 FL plates) and a nice guy named Seth came by and asked if we needed a ride. He had actually just had a day hike in the Smokies and hitched a ride from his end point to where his car was at Newfound Gap and decided to pass on the kindness. At first he was going to drive us to Gaitlingburg where we would get another ride to our hostel, but decided to take us all the way here (which was probably an hour long ride.) So basically, he saved us a lot of time and effort getting here. He said he was planning to thru-hike next year or the year after if he could, so he was building up his trail magic karma.

So we got to the hostel where we were allowed to do a work for stay around 3. Right away we did some landscaping to pay off our stay (we threw down some gravel and redid some garden masonry with Rockhound as our foreman. Curtis and Maria are very well known along the trail for this hostel. It has just about everything any hiker needs. He took us to get some bbq, and we loaded up on food and came back to the hostel. Andy found a guitar here and hasn't stopped playing since. We will head out in the morning and stop off in Hot Springs in a few days to resupply our food stock and maybe take a zero day. The past week or so has been mentally straining between the cold, rain, and missing Jim at Fontana. If we see the weather is nice, we may just stay the night there (work for stay again hopefully.)

Now its time to relax, warm up, and hope for some better days ahead.