That Four Letter Word Every Thru Hiker Loves, Snow! Oops, I Mean Zero
3/27/2015-The rumor mill of the trail was ablaze all day that the temps were going to be below freezing Friday night. We had been listening to trail rumors for a while. The day we hiked to Gooch Gap we decided to go to Helen, GA instead of Hiawassee because we heard the town had norovirus. Whenever weather or noro is mentioned we are likely to pay attention.
We had been hiking all day in rather cold wet weather. Nothing like thunderstorm weather, just your average miserable foggy, wet, and windy day. We had planned to take the stretch between Dicks Creek Gap and Winding Stair Gap in five days. Instead, we did it in four and came off at Rock Gap, because of the threat of sub-zero temps.
After spending the night at Top of Georgia tenting in the front yard, because all bunks were full, we loaded up our resupplies. Our goal was twofold: 1. Cross the border into North Carolina. 2. Head to Franklin, NC for resupply and see my husband one more time before he returns to Minnesota.
We headed out into a wet kind of day and pushed ourselves towards the GA/NC border. We got there right in time for supper. It was pretty windy and it also rained off and on during the night. Some of the gusts seemed to be close to 25 mph.
It was still dark the next morning when I could hear people packing up to hike for the day. Hike your own hike. We like to get up, have breakfast, then break camp. It started out cold, but walking out of a gap warms you up quick. One has no choice but to head up. And head up we did. At the end of the dat, we were just shy of Standing Indian shelter when Sadie and I saw this great creek and camp. So, we stopped, checked it out, and called it a day. We were building a fire when The Gnome asked if he could join us. We said come on down. Then came Rock Steady who wasnt looking too steady any more, and Marie. Next was Keke, who was Marie’ friend. We tried to get Resolute to join us, but after checking his phone, he moved on.
We had a great night around the fire talking, laughing and sharing stories. The Gnome shared his plant knowledge and gave us ramps to try, which were quite good in our mashed potatoes. I actually stayed up past my bedtime of sunset which is around 7:45 pm. The sound of the creek moving past my tent was like a lullaby and before I knew it I was fast asleep.
During the night it drizzled off and on and so in the morning, once again we packed up wet gear. Have I stated yet, how much I hate wet gear. I will spend all day thinking about that wet gear. Wondering when I will be able to dry it all out. The morning was cold and wet. We climbed and desended Standing Indian Mt in the wet fog. At 3 pm my cousin and I arrived at Betty Creek Gap. I liked the spot immediately, because the sun was finally out and we were protected by trees. Sadie wanted to do more miles because of the oncoming cold night. She wanted to shorten up our hike to Franklin by a day. Against my better judgement I agreed to move on. In the end it was a wise decision.
We found a place near Moody Gap and called it a day. We were just throwing a stick over a tree branch to hang our food bag when Resolute came strolling along. He asked if he could camp with us and we immediately said yes. After watching 4 attempts of me throwing a stick in the air and almost getting hit in the head, Resolute offered to help. Needless to say, he got it on his first throw. After eating supper we headed to our respective beds because the day never gave up it’s cold. We had barely gotten in our beds when we heard something hitting our rain fly’s. I looked out and reported it was snow.
Dismayed and now hoping I had enough warm clothes to survive the cold night ahead, I fell sound asleep. The cold eventually seeped into my sleeping bag and I woke up. I usually wake up around 3:00 am and hoped this was the case tonight. I tuned up my phone and read the unwelcome time of 12:30 am. I knew in those brief moments it was going to be a long night.
After much massaging of limbs and movement within my bag to get my circulation going to keep me warm during the night, morning finally arrived. As I lay in my bag waiting for sunrise, I noticed a strange shadow on the roof of my tent. As I studied the shadow, it dawned on me what might be the cause. I grabbed my headlamp and shined it towards the bottom edge of my tent and my fears were confirmed…SNOW!!!!!
Well, there was only one thing to do head out as fast as our frozen bodies and gear would let us. Franklin, NC here we come for a zero. There was no way we were going to attempt a second night with these temps without adjusting our gear. My husband Tom was passing through on Sunday, and we were going to get back some warmer gear we had given up at Neels Gap over a week ago. I hope we are now ready for the Smokies when we get there.
For more about ramps go to: https://www.wildedible.com/wild-food-guide/ramps
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