Chilly Challenges, Magic on the Mountain, and Other Observations

As we continue to learn on this trail, technology designed to predict and thwart Mother Nature’s maleffects is far from absolute.   Our ability to adapt and innovate seems to be our only defense here, which was certainly the case this week.

Chilly Challenges

Wet and Cold

Rainy Start to Fontana Dam

After coming back on the trail at Yellow Creek Road, it immediately began to rain – almost as we stepped from the shuttle.  I happily showed Ma Wampus how the rain was beading on my new jacket; unfortunately, it was not beading up on hers – not on the outside anyway.  This issue was very problematic as temps were likely to drop as we increased in elevation into the Smokies.  We made our way into Fontana Dam Village and picked up some temporary ponchos and another rain jacket that could be used should the predicted rain occur.  We were ready for the rain in the Smokies.

Yay – No Rain

Snow in the Smokies

Hello April in the Smokies!

Early on in our foray into the Smokies, the temperature dropped below freezing by the time we reached the first shelters.  Several hikers were finding that their gas stoves were burning up fuel at a greater rate, resulting in no fuel and a cold soak option.

Fortunately, because the winds had been so high, I was able to find lots of broken branches in the trees, which we used to feed a fire in the shelter.  Ma Wampus loaned the top of our bear can to Jackie to cook some food, while a couple of other hikers were able to slip their titanium cups and pots into the coals.  While the socks and boots hanging over the cooking space was a bit odd, utility took precedence over social mores.

Cold Temps Take a Toll on Hikers

Andy the Ridge Runner Drops By

Meeting Andy the Ridge Runner

During our walk we encountered Andy, the Ridge Runner.  He relayed some information on bears in the area.  He further told us of requirements to hang your entire bag.  This action results in your bag being covered in ice the next morning. He also let us know that rules were being relaxed on mandatory shelter stays due to a Noravirus outbreak.  The outbreak had resulted in multiple hospitalizations resulting in a national broadcast warning from the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

During this period of time, we also met several hikers who had suffered sprains and other injuries that would require some days on the beach.  We also met a NC hiker who relayed he was coming off after he broke a tooth on a frozen Cliff bar.

Freezing Temps Continue

Hiking at 26F/-3C

We continued our hike the next day while the wind picked up and the temps continued to drop, as our elevation continued to increase.  A repeat of the previous night occurred.  The fire was nice but unless you are sitting right in front of it, the positive effects are minimal.  Ma Wampus and I zipped our 20F/-6C bags together improving our overall R values; however, being toasty in your bag does not help you get out of it and put on those frozen solid socks.

The advance up Rocky Top slowed considerably due to all the ice.  By the time we reached the famous summit, Ma Wampus was less than amused with my version of Rocky Top.  We made our way to the next shelter – rinse and repeat.

Reaching Rocky Top!

Ma Wampus Reaches Famous Rocky Top

Magic on the Mountain

As we began our approach up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, the weather began to warm to the mid forties.  In the sun, the trail was very muddy and slick.  In the shade, the snow melted and refroze making it very slick.  During our foray up the summit, we met Heather, who was day hiking as a training exercise.  She was unhappy with the ice and decided to cut her planned hike short.

As we got to the summit, Heather was there speaking with two other day hikers.  “Oh my gosh, did you come up that icy trail with those heavy bags?” The day hiker asked.  I answered in the affirmative.  “Are you headed to Maine?” She asked.  I responded that right now I just wanted to get my butt up to Clingman’s Dome and maybe later today just get to Gatlinburg Tennessee to resupply.  Heather immediately let us know that she planned to go toward Gatlinburg and could give us a ride.  No hassles with shuttles.  No rental car disasters.  No fighting with the elevation of where you are standing to make a phone call.  Just a ride – Amazing – Sometimes the trail does provide!  Thank you Heather!!!!!

Other Observations

We saw so many things that were historically significant but here are a couple of the highlights.

Fontana Dam

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Fontana Dam is a Tennessee Valley Authority Project authorized at the beginning of WW2.  This dam was deemed necessary to increase the amount of aluminum production for the war effort.  The government mandatorily relocated over 1300 families and more than 1000 graves within months of the order.  Once the project was turned on, the towns of Fontana, Bushnell, Forney, and Judson sank into history and the bottom of the new lake.  The new dam has the capacity of 293.6 megawatts, making it, at the time, the largest dam East of the Mississippi.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Entering the Smoky Mountains

Entering the Smoky Mountains

The GSMNP is the most visited park in the entire United States.  It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and designated an international biosphere reserve.  Sadly, this is also the site of one the saddest stories relating to the Cherokee removal.

Forced removal is often an inherently violent affair.  In one such case, a group of soldiers surprised the Tsali family at their farm. A soldier did not think Tsali’s wife, who was nursing a baby, was moving fast enough and jabbed her with a bayonet.  Tsali’s wife dropped the baby and the baby died.  Tsali and family did not take this well and killed a couple of soldiers and took to the hills.  Dozens of Cherokee joined Tsali hiding from the soldiers.

This problem was detrimental to General Scott’s plan and he did not have the resources to deal with the issue. General Scott turned to the Cherokee to fix the problem. Enter the white chief, we discussed in our last blog who helps use the situation to guarantee a NC homeland to some of the Cherokee.  Tsali eventually surrenders with his band, after a promise that many of the Cherokee could stay – the Eastern Band.  Long story short, General Scott orders Tsali’s execution by a firing squad manned by fellow Cherokee.  Tsali remains an enduring symbol of resistance and sacrifice for the Cherokee people.



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Comments 8

  • Stephen Murray : Apr 8th

    Loved the inclusion of history along your route…nice post!

    • MaPa Wampus : Apr 15th

      Thanks Stephen – This is just a tidbit of what the locals shoot out at me when I ask a question or two. Walking really allows you to soak it in – definitely recommend it!

  • Kelli Ramey : Apr 9th

    I, too, am loving the included history.

    There is a really nice fictional account of the white chief’s life. It is called”Thirteen Moons” by author Charles Frazier. I was told the author’s father either taught or was principle at the HS in Franklin, NC…and that he was full of native lore.

    Try to stay warm&dry. It is still not spring weather everywhere. We had a tornado on Conyers, GA near ATL a week ago, today.

    • MaPa Wampus : Apr 15th

      Thanks Kelli. This “walk” has allowed me to slow down and look at a few things. I wish I had done this 20 years ago! Thanks for the book recommendation – will be checking that out.

  • Darlene Allison : Apr 17th

    We are keeping up with your blog. We met up with you two on the AP trail. We had conversations about the trek. We were NOT hiking the trail. We were checking the tower out.
    We have been following you, but haven’t seen any posts lately. We hope all is well.
    The Allisons

    • MaPa Wampus : Apr 21st

      I write when I get into town, so it’s about every week. I definitely remember you guys – your husband and son traveled down the Mississippi and even climbed Kilimanjaro. We are doing well. I’ll write again soon – Thabks for joining us!

  • Kathy Sharp : Apr 27th

    I am loving your journey writing. The history is especially a unique and wonderful part that I look forward to reading. It is awesome that you two have undertaken this adventure together. Keep up the positive attitude. You mentioned North Star. Last year I followed The Incident on his trek journey….his wife North Star hiked much of the trail with him and was a God send aiding many of the hikers. She’s a great lady!! Looking forward to your next update on your adventures. Just wanted to add….trashbag dresses may become the new fashion for men…. remember you set that trend in motion Pa Wampus….lol .

    • MaPa Wampus : Apr 28th

      Thanks Kathy. I have never been described as lucky, except in one instance – my life partner! Interesting thing on the trash bag dress. Our Patagonia jackets work like a charm but it’s coverage to mid thigh. In heavy rain, I’ve been taking our extra tent flooring, a 3ft piece of Tyvek, and using it as a wrap; however, it’s not a trash bag dress, Kathy, it’s a kilt! 😎


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