Cold and Happy

20/20 coming from the Appalachian Plateau with another update. It’s been baby’s first hike in the snow.


Album picks: Hushed and Grim (Mastodon), Sweet Baby James (James Taylor), Dire Straits (Dire Straits), Far Beyond Driven (Pantera)


Surprise Snowstorm

Last week, just after my last post, we had a semi-surprise snowstorm up here. Nothing significant, only an inch or two stick on the peaks, but it was incredible. After a night of much needed platinum blazing in Wytheville, I set back out on the trail, ready to face the weather. Some stayed in town, but out of bravery or stupidity I pushed on. Finally, the time had come where I could put all that winter hiking research to real use and use the winter gear I had spent so much on, there was no way I was losing this opportunity. The plan was to make it to Wapiti shelter (which has a tragic history), a lower elevation shelter protected from strong winds by the surrounding ridgelines. Well, after a late start and a beautiful day, I made it to the shelter around 6:00 or so. When I got there, I checked my phone for service. Those awesome high ridges protecting me from the winds were also keeping any signal from reaching the shelter. “I’m not going to be able to talk to my girlfriend tonight? This isn’t going to work…” There were only two nights I hadn’t been able to talk to her, and those were in the Smokies before I realized there was service there. I wasn’t going to let this snow break that streak. I checked FarOut and saw there may be some campsites up the ridge. I put the pack back on and ran back to the trail, plan a-changing. There was one water source right before the climb up the ridge, used to the drill by now, I cameled up and began the climb with two and a half liters now on my back. My pack was HEAVY. It didn’t help that the climb was atrocious too, just steep as could be it felt like. Once I was finally at the top, I got a beautiful view of the Virginia ridgelines at sunset, and there were these incredible snow clouds coming in. Being from South Georgia, I’m not 100% familiar with snow clouds, but I just knew these were by the way they looked (and because there was snow in the forecast). While beautiful, the reality of my decision crept upon me and I realized how cold I was going to be that night. The thought of using my freezing, wet hands to get everything packed up the next morning sent me over the edge, and I called a nearby hostel to see if they had space. They did, booyah! Only another six miles to go now. What started out as a 26-mile day was now going to be 33.8. But hey, I was going to get to talk to my girl, have a roof over my head and a warm place to sleep in, what more could you ask for? As the cloudy twilight took over the mountain peak, a rush of wind came with it, and then… was that a snowflake? Then more, and even though only a scant few tiny flakes began falling extremely infrequently, I could barely contain my excitement. There’s no way to really describe how happy snow makes someone who lives in a place without it (speaking for myself here). I had my phone out taking crappy videos immediately, you couldn’t even tell it was snowing in them. It picked up slightly, then stopped, and for the rest of the hike to the hostel it was cold and dark. By the time I got there, I was completely fried and ready to sleep. When I stumbled in and found my way to my bunk, a fellow hiker saw me and taking pity gave me a honeybun. By far the best honeybun I’ve ever had.

The next morning was beautiful, waking up at the hostel and drinking coffee next to a wood burning stove while watching the snow fall and the forest become a winter wonderland is one of those picturesque memories I’ll never forget. The next few days tested me, but the novelty of hiking in the snow made it all worth the while. By the time the snow was done though, I was done with the snow too. Thanks for the surprise winter storm, AT, but please let it be the last of the season!


Some Enlightenment

While at the hostel, I heard a line that I think God wanted me to hear. We were all asked to say something we were thankful for before the meal, most people were thankful for the snow, or their health, great things. But someone said, “I’m thankful… for all the shit,” and with a smile she indicated that that was it, no further explanation. She looked to the next person, and we went on. This wasn’t an agitated, passive-aggressive way of exclaiming dissatisfaction with the way things were going in this person’s life, but a genuine thankfulness for the hardships. I’d forgotten that attitude, if I ever really had it. But the next day, and for every day since, when I’m going up a climb, getting pelted in the face with hail, missing every throw of my bear hang, or just feeling down, I say to myself, “Thanks for all the shit.”

At this point, it’s safe to say that the mental battles are just as tough as the physical battles, and to be honest, they are indistinguishable. Thanks for the inspiration, Neville. I needed it.


Almost Halfway

I’ve made it past McAfee Knob, probably the most recognizable spot on trail besides Katahdin, and I’m going to be reaching Harper’s Ferry soon. I catch myself thinking about the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, and the lessons I’ve learned so far. At no other point in my life has so much experience been crammed into such a short period of time. The thought of being at the halfway point is strange. Some happiness, some sadness. I’m ready to be there but I’m not ready for every day to be a countdown to my last again. Here’s to all the trail I’ve covered so far. It’s been a pleasure.

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Comments 1

  • gracie townsend : Apr 12th

    Jonah, Sounds like you are having a grand time growing and seeing life in a whole other way. I am thankful for all the shit also. Means you are alive and going somewhere??? Hugs and be safe. Gracie


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