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March 22 thru March 25...

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March 22, 2013 Mollies Ridge Shelter
Day one into the Smokies was an 11 mile hike up to Mollies Shelter and got me to the ridge line of the Smokies. Overcast and cold. I had watched the weather but there was only rain in the forecast. I had forgotten though as you get up in elevation things can quickly change and get very bad. That night it rained and then woke up with the plan to hike to Derrek Shelter. Hiked in the mist and some rain. Got up on the next day to rain and could not decide whether to hike and get to the base of Clingman's Dome or stay at the shelter. We met a trail runner on the trail and he said for us to get up and over Clingman's Dome on Sunday, because a snow storm was coming on Monday. So, I hiked up and over Clingman's Dome and down the mountain on ice and freezing temps. Barely made it to the Mt Collins shelter when hail, sleet and freezing rain started. Woke up the next morning to a foot of snow.
March 23, 2013 Derrick Knob Shelter
At first Tracy McGee and I laid in the shelter when we first got up to the rain. By 9am we decided we would start out. When we got to the first shelter we ran into a trail runner who told us that we should get up and over Clingman's Dome to the next shelter (which was 14 miles) because the weather was going to change. Tracy McGee and I decided we would go from shelter to shelter and stop and wait up for each other to decide if we were going to go farther. The weather on and off that day would be very bad and as we went up in elevation it would get colder and we would have ice on the rocks that we were climbing.
We got to Double Spring Gap Shelter at the base of Clingman's Dome where I ran into Otto again. We told him what the trail runner had said, but his feet were not doing well. On the trail because of rain and feet getting wet, his feet where not in good shape, so he was going to take a zero at this shelter and give his feet a rest. Tracy McGee and I decided to go on, but we said to each other if I got up to the top of Clingman's Dome and I could not wait for her, I could either get off in that parking lot and get a ride out to Gatlinburg or to hike down to the Mt Collins Shelter.
Well I got to the top of the mountain and the weather was so bad, but I felt like I could keep going down to the next shelter. I knew though that Tracy would probably get off because the weather was getting pretty bad. I hiked off of Clingman's Dome down that mountain with ice on the rocks, praying all of the way. This part of the trail was in heavily pined woods which made the forest scary and I quickly hiked the rest of those 3 miles to the shelter just in time for the weather to change to freezing rain and sleet. This is where I met John and his son, with his 3 friends. They were in Gatlinburg and had decided to do an overnight backpack trip from NewFound Gap to the shelter and then the next day they would hike up to Clingman's Dome and John's wife, Grace would pick them up the next day at 5. I looked at John and said we have to get off this mountain in the morning the weather is about to turn and it is going to get really bad.
March 24, 2013 Mt Collins Shelter
We got up this morning to about a foot of snow. I pulled John aside and told him I would get going first down the trail and to get the boys packed up and follow out behind me. I took down Grace's phone number and would call her when I got into Newfound Gap which was about 6 miles from the shelter. When I got out to Newfound Gap the wind was whipping and it was still snowing. Luckily there were bathrooms there and I was able to get service. I called Grace and she was on the phone with a park ranger at that same moment. I told her John and the boys were about an hour behind me and we would all be there for them to come and get us. She told the park rangers (the park at this point had closed due to the blizzard) and they came up and got us an hour latter.
March 25, 2013 - March 26, 2013 Gatlinburg, TN
That night after the rescue I was invited to stay at the Chalet that John and Grace were staying at. The next day we ventured into town where I caught up with Otto. Because he had stayed out in that bad weather an additional night he said that to get up and over Clingman's Dome he had to hike in 2-4 feet of snow and the weather was really bad, he was very happy to be down in Gatlinburg when I saw him. I then went off with the family and friends and did the tourist sightseeing stuff and then I went and stayed at the hotel in town where all of the hikers were there to wait out the bad weather and to anticipate when the Smokies would reopen so we could get back on the trail. Before we ventured in to town I went and checked into the Grand Prix Hotel and guess who was in the lobby as I walked in...Wet Dog. He was looking to room with someone and I was glad to split the cost. That night we talked with the other hikers and the fact that the Smokies would probably stay closed for 2 or more days because there was anywhere from 2 to 4 feet of snow up on those trails.
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