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March 27th thru March 31st...

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March 27, 2013 - March 28, 2013 Hot Springs, NC (Pisgah National Forest)
There were still hikers that wanted to wait out the weather and stay in Gatlinburg until the Smokies reopened. This included the 5 original guys I had met the second day on the trail. I did not want to hike in 2 to 4 feet of snow so Wet Dog and I agreed that we would skip the 35 miles and move to Hot Springs. The plan was to come back after we got up to Main and get back down to Gatlinburg to make up the miles. He was also talking to some other hikers who agreed with us. By noon on March 27th Wet Dog and myself along with Bean and Easy we rented a shuttle to bring us over to Hot Springs. The plan was to get there reorganize and restock and get on the trail the next day.
On our way to Hot Springs the shuttle driver got lost and we ended up at a strip mall where there was a Bo Jangles. I had never been to one so when I got to the register I said to the woman taking my order that I had never been to one. She said, oh no, that will not do, so you will have to sample everything on our menu. Now, you have to stop for a moment because as a thru hiker gets their hiking legs under them, they are hiking on average 14 to 20 miles per day for about 10 hours per day. The intake of food needs to increase because of the calories that are burned daily. On average men should consume 6000 calories and women 4000. Bottom line I was beginning to be hungry all day long while hiking and I could not get enough food into my body.
So, when offered to sample everything on the menu, I looked at Wet Dog and we just grinned and said absolutely we could try everything on the menu. Well we took that food and consumed it in about 5 minutes and then I went up and ordered two more things to bring with us to Hot Springs. Wet Dog being on a fixed budget was really happy then only to spend $2 on a breakfast sandwhich. Well we finally got to Hot Springs where I picked up my food drop at the outfitters and got ready to hike out the next day.
March 29, 2013 Spring Mountain Shelter
The next day in Hot Springs gave us all a promising hope that the weather would be better, the sun was shining and we were glad to be out of the Smokies. We would climb the first day up to Spring Mountain Shelter about 11 miles. But, as we did the 2200 elevation climb we soon found ourselves again in freezing temps and snow. What was hard everyday of the trip because of the cold, you tended to hike more because you wanted to stay warm, and if you stopped you would start sweating and that would get you cold. So, I just hiked and stuffed all of my pockets with food so while hiking I could keep eating. Now, before this hike I could never eat and hike at the same time; it amazed me how I could adapt and change to what the weather conditions were dealing us.
That night we got to the shelter I quickly ate and then jumped in my sleeping bag for another night of below freezing temps. As usual I was in bed by 7pm. At this point in the trip I usually saw all the sun rises because we went to bed so early and I never saw a sunset because I was in bed so early just trying to stay warm. That night I woke up to poke my head out and it was a clear night, with so many stars.
March 30, 2013 Jerry Cabin
The next morning we got up early and we were on our way with the plan to do 16 miles to Jerry's Cabin. There was ice on the trails again because of the freezing temps and going downhill was slow because of it. This day we would then do almost a 3000 elevation change back up into the mountains and as we climbed it got colder and it began to snow again. Well this was very discouraging to me because it would leave my feet freezing and soaking wet and where we and other hikers were hiking in the morning it would probably be ice again. I usually hike in the middle of whoever I am with, but usually while on the trail I will spend the day on my own until we meet up at the shelter.
The last 3 miles of the 16 miles would lead me up to hiking the AT on the side of a cliff where there was ice on all of the rocks and it just kept snowing. I had enough of trying to play survior woman in this bad weather. To look back, I had 6 days of fresh snow, sleet, freezing rain, a blizzard in the Smokies and now more snow, plus below freezing temps most of the days and all of the nights but one. It was not fun anymore, but the thought of quitting was just not an option. By the time I got to the shelter I was cold, wet and exhausted from the bad weather. I did not know what I was going to do.
Well, I had scheduled time to get off the trail to go to my dad's 75th birthday and plan my son's wedding for July 5th. My original plans were to leave on April 16th and stay in TX until April 28th. That morning that I woke up in the snow again I had the great idea to change my ticket to go before my dad's birthday and up to it instead of coming the day before and staying two weeks after. The plan to get rid of some of that bad weather that kept showing up and get back on the trail with better weather.
Because of that, the trail from my house in VA is only an hour an half (Waynesboro, VA) from my house, so instead of paying to get down to Gatlinburg to make up the parts I skipped I have decided I will head southbound for this part until I have to leave again for my son's wedding in July. What is good by heading southbound I will hit the Appalachian Trail Days in Damascus VA May 17th and my outdoor club will be in Gatlinburg on June 8th so they can bring me back up to Waynesboro and from that point I can head north again. The first part of this adventure, which was the month of March I ended doing a total of 250 miles.
The southbound I will have to make up about 700 miles. This way I will see everyone that I started hiking with and who stayed and who did not make it. When I left Erwin, TN March 31st the outfitters told me they were telling people to get off the trail because of such bad weather and take some time at home and come back. I am glad I made that decision. I am also hearing that the stomach virus has spread rampant on the trail enough to concern the parks service. It has just been such a hard start this year and the weather broke down a lot of people's immunity. I am at peace that I believe I made a good decision to take the break earlier, and I am so excited to get back on the trail to meet up with people I met during the month of March.
Erwin, TN to Johnson City TN back to Richmond, VA
That morning at Jerry's Cabin I told everyone my decision and I knew Wet Dog had been struggling also, so I made him the offer to come back to my house in VA, stay there while I was in TX and maybe he could find some work while I was gone to make some money to have when he got back on the trail. He had to think about it for about an hour and becuase I had started out sooner than him, all of a sudden I heard on the trail, "Hey Madison wait a minute I'm going to take you up on that offer." We would hike out the 8 miles to the gap then and then pick up a shuttle that would take us to Johnson City TN to catch a bus back to Richmond VA. When I got back to Richmond, I called my friend Keith and he was able to get him working the entire time I was gone, which he was very thankful for.
To keep you posted I did find out later that Tracy McGee did get off the mountain at Clingman's Dome parking lot and she safely got a ride into Gatlinburg before the bad weather began.
K-Fox was up in the Smokies when she to had to evacuate before Clingman's Dome because of the bad weather. She then waited it out until she could get back on the trail and is on her way to Damasus in the next 12 days. I will keep in contact with her so we cross on the trail as I go SOBO.
Bean and Easy to date are still on the trail, when I get back on April 22nd I will contact Bean to make sure we also connect on the trail.
Looking forward to seeing the college students from NH and Lil Engine, Timber and Ambo in VA. And I am anticipating seeing Crow, Otto, Shaggy, Blue Moon and Chicadee, and the 5 guys that were waiting it out in Gatlinburg until the trail reopened in the Smokies. To be continued April 22nd....
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