Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 28
  1. #1

    Default It was twenty years ago today, March 12-13

    I left Amicalola on Wednesday, March 10, 1993 and by the night of the 12th, my journey was going well. In fact, my journal entry that day stated:
    March 12 Friday-Fantastic day! Took 1 and a half hours to get going - made whole wheat pancakes for breakfast. Hit the tail at 8:30 and cruised for a while. Got hailed on, but it wasn't very noticeable. Took a long time to hit Woody Gap but got a second wind when we stopped for dinner 2.2 miles from Jarrard Gap. Cruised uphill and it started to snow! Its accumulating too! We went about a mile past Jarrard and would have kept going except that darkness was due to fall soon. Took pictures of snow on the tent and wrote. Too cool! We definitely got our second wind today! I love it!

    Perhaps our campsite was at Bird Gap or Turkey Stamp Mountain. I's hard to tell since there was no shelter there back then but there was a small clearing where we pitched the tent. We had come about 13 miles from Justus Creek, and had met a second set of would-be thru hikers the day before (and one set on the 10th). It was a different time back then; fewer hikers on the trail (at least on Wednesdays) and no cell phones for common folk. We had driven through the night Tuesday and set off from the park before it opened as the third driver left with the car, so we hadn't signed a register there, just the one at Springer. My partner had never been backpacking before, but she had tons of experience with similar things, like hiking, camping, camping trips on horses, etc. We hadn't packed a weather radio- why bother? We were prepared for some snow and we were enjoying it.

    We had a North Face Tadpole for a tent, expedition weight polypro tops, bottoms and balaclavas (the real stuff that clings, not the fleece you commonly see today), gore-tex jackets and glove liners. I had gore-tex side zip pants and knee-high gaiters, and my partner had cheap rain pants. We had a map and compass, as well as guidebook pages for the area. I wore glasses, and my partner had contacts. We both had room for sunglasses and sunscreen in our packs, and we'd left carrying food for five days (just in case- our next resupply was Neels Gap), a white gas whisperlite stove, katadyn pocket water filter and nalgene water bottles. My luxury item was the bakepacker that I had used that morning for pancakes. All told, we left the park with packs weighing about 35 pounds each and no idea of what we getting into. Of course, at that point, no one had any idea. I'm very glad the light-weight craze wasn't around then. As it was, the weather was never bad enough to force us to take a day off, but the next day was the most physically brutal day I've ever experienced.
    But that night, we had no idea what was coming...

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    01-08-2013
    Location
    Shelby County, Alabama
    Age
    38
    Posts
    54

    Default

    That's awesome!
    I ain't totin that!

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    04-24-2008
    Location
    Atlanta, Earth
    Age
    52
    Posts
    88

    Default

    I'm guessing blizzard of '93, if memory serves. A foot of snow down in Atlanta, so no telling how deep in the mountains.

    Spoiler alert.

  4. #4

    Default

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing your trip down memory lane.

  5. #5
    Springer to Bland, VA
    Join Date
    06-17-2012
    Location
    Winter Haven, FL
    Age
    58
    Posts
    109

    Default

    I was driving from Atlanta up to the midwest. Traffic came to a complete stop on I-75 and spent the next 24 hours parked on the interstate due to the deep snow. Fortuantely, we came to a stop only .25 miles from an exit for Calhoun, GA, so we hiked down for supplies. The clerk was a mess, as she had worked the overnight shift and her replacement couldnt make it in. She couldnt get home due to the snow. Power was out. So she broke open a pocket calculator off the rack and kept ringing up purchases of all these people who hiked down from their stranded cars on I-75. I waited in line 30+ minutes to check out. Later that night when power was restored, we hiked back down and ate at Waffle House. People were just hanging around after they ate because it was warm and they wanted to prolong the hike back to their cold cars.

    The next morning we were told GA has two plows to service I-75 from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Both of them were stuck in a ditch and nothing would move again until the snow melted.

  6. #6

    Default

    hikers were "rescued" from Springer whether they wanted rescued or not.

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    02-14-2013
    Location
    Forest Moon, Endor
    Posts
    54

    Default

    I was sitting at home mad because I was supposed to be having a birthday party at school and got a snow day I couldn't even go out and play in, instead.

  8. #8
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    02-20-2013
    Location
    Upper East Side of Texas
    Age
    74
    Posts
    8,401

    Default

    I was in Nanaimo, B.C. when that storm hit. My daughter had left Oxford, MS bound for Spring Break in Daytona, FL. T-shirts & shorts were the fashion gear for the trip. The storm caught up with them about the time they got to Daytona. They were huddled in the lobby of a Holiday Inn waiting for the roads to open for the trip back to Daytona. I watched the news of the storm on CTV News. Sitting by a big fire. I missed all the fun.

    Wayne

  9. #9
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    02-20-2013
    Location
    Upper East Side of Texas
    Age
    74
    Posts
    8,401

    Default

    ps: My daughter, now in Boone, NC, just told me that Boone got 26" of snow from the Blizzard of '93.
    I miss all the fun!

    Wayne

  10. #10

    Default

    Yes- it was the Storm of the Century or the Blizzard of '93 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_Storm_of_the_Century), but we didn't know that when we woke up on March 13. My journal entry for the day read:

    March 13 Saturday. Woke to find that it had snowed during the night. There was 3 plus inches of wet snow everywhere and what looked like freezing rain was coming down. The foot of the tent and the vestibule were sagging. I removed the snow and also cleared off the sides - a mistake. Snow blew under the fly and stuck to the mesh. We started to get wet later and had to try to make it to Blood Mountain Shelter. The tent nearly blew away when we took it down. Lost a stopper on one of the poles. The food bags were frozen to the tree. The 2 and a half mile hike was rough. I put ziplocks over my feet since we had to dig our boots out of the snow which had blown in the vestibule. Sue's pants split taking down the tent and died on the hike. We were depressed when we saw the 1.1 mile to Blood Mt. sign. Hardly noticed the uphill climb - paid attention the thigh high drifts and normal stuff that was over my boot tops. We were so glad to get to the shelter. They say there are good views up here but we haven't bothered to look. I had a bad hair day - a lot was caught outside my balaclava and froze. Its 25 degrees in the shelter - we made a fire, thanks to the Sawman and someone left water which hadn't completely frozen. A big lunch and to bed - just for warmth. Tomorrow, we'll stay in Neels Gap if all goes well. I hope this is the toughest day of my hike!
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    to serve their turn long after they are gone
    and so go on when there is nothing in you
    except the will which says to them "go on." Kipling

    Spent 16 plus hours in bed today- its warmer.


    In hindsight, we made several mistakes, notably not grasping the extent of the storm. After all we were in Georgia in March, so how bad could it possibly get? As we tried to sleep though it that morning, more snow and ice piled up, visibility dropped, tree limbs grew heavy with ice and started dropping, snow came through the mesh sides of the tent and covered my partner's bag. When we took down the tent after carefully packing all else while inside it, we knew wouldn't be able to set it up again. I was holding onto the tent fabric when we popped one of the poles and the tent pole flew at least 15 feet from the tent and bent. That meant "We're committed". The hike pushed our mental and physical limits for a longer, and more intensely than any other experience. I blindly (you can't wear glasses in a blizzard) followed my partner up the mountain, wondering who was stupid enough to choose white for blazes.

    Thankfully, at the time, Blood Mountain shelter had shutters on the windows and a working fireplace. And it was a wonderful 4-sided stone shelter that seemed much less likely to fall in a storm than say, Rufus Morgan shelter. It took both us struggling to break the ice on the latch and open the door without it falling off in the wind or one of us falling off the step. I've since seen a photo of the shelter in good weather, and it appears to have more than one step now; I'm sure the extra steps were also there when we hiked, but we couldn't tell. We closed the door behind us and never opened it again till the next day; the shutters could be managed by one person so we used one to scoop up snow from the ground to melt for water, and one to get rid of excess water. Supposedly, there were animals there, but we heard nary a peep. The fire was one of perhaps 2 that I built on the entire trail, made possible only because someone had left some kindling inside. We set up the tent in the back room and more ice built up on it that night. I'm not sure how fast the winds actually were or how cold it was, my estimate of 25 degrees in the shelter was partially based on a very inaccurate zipper-pull thermometer. It was definitely below freezing, as water was freezing solid in all the water bottles inside our tent inside the shelter.

    This was one of my slowest hikes ever, but we were able to hike the whole way and were never blown over by the wind. As we hiked, the snow got deeper and deeper. My shortest day spent hiking on the AT and not in town, was by far my toughest.

    As we noted on the hike uphill, it takes a lot to kill a person wearing expedition-weight polypro and gore-tex. However, it doesn't take much for frostbite, and I occasionally look down and notice that I still have 10 fingers and remember this day as my wet liners (and spare socks and ziplocks for added protection) were not really sufficient.

  11. #11

    Default

    I remember that storm...cool story Bati, nice sentiments there.

  12. #12

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    ps: My daughter, now in Boone, NC, just told me that Boone got 26" of snow from the Blizzard of '93.
    I miss all the fun!

    Wayne
    My ASU roommate stayed in the Boone/Blowing Rock area after graduation and lived in Blowing Rock in March 1993. He said of all of the winter storms he experienced before and since (he's in Aho today), the "Storm of the Century" was head and shoulders the worst. He feared for his and his wife's and daughter's lives. Hurricane force winds, trees falling on the house, snow drifted 4 to 8', no power. He was afraid they'd be killed by falling trees or exposure if the tried to walk out to help, or from exposure if they didn't.

    I recall the storm set records for low barometric pressures. There were hurricane-like damages on the Gulf Coast, and similar hurricane-like damages from west-northwest winds on the NC Outer Banks.

    Great piece--please keep it coming.

    AO

  13. #13

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Alleghanian Orogeny View Post
    My ASU roommate stayed in the Boone/Blowing Rock area after graduation and lived in Blowing Rock in March 1993. He said of all of the winter storms he experienced before and since (he's in Aho today), the "Storm of the Century" was head and shoulders the worst. He feared for his and his wife's and daughter's lives. Hurricane force winds, trees falling on the house, snow drifted 4 to 8', no power. He was afraid they'd be killed by falling trees or exposure if the tried to walk out to help, or from exposure if they didn't.

    I recall the storm set records for low barometric pressures. There were hurricane-like damages on the Gulf Coast, and similar hurricane-like damages from west-northwest winds on the NC Outer Banks.

    Great piece--please keep it coming.

    AO
    I wanna say the pressures were 833mb, but I think that's to low, but I do remember them being real low like you said.


    Here it is; 960mb..28.35 inches Hg....pretty darn low!
    Last edited by rocketsocks; 03-13-2013 at 18:35.

  14. #14

    Default

    According to wikipedia, the pressure was 960 and the maximum snowfall was Mt. Le Conte with 69 inches. There wasn't nearly that much snow where we were so when we carefully opened the door the next morning, we were in for a treat. According to my journal:

    March 14 Sunday Woke up somewhat cold inside the shelter. A much warmer morning than yesterday. Water inside the tent wasn't completely frozen, but our breath had condensed and frozen on the tent walls. Melted snow too -empty the ice in the bottle and left one full for the next person. Had to search for the trail at first, but the views were wonderful! Ice covered branches and leaves coated with snow so that the trees looked like cotton candy. Found a set of footprints about a mile down and didn't have to search anymore. Met 2 people who had camped out the night before -weekenders. It was much easier going down - no wind and the temperature was in the 20's. Met a bunch of folks at the Walasi-Yi. Jeff had the store open for us and we stocked up. Purchased more polypro; my partner lost her rain pants yesterday and bought new ones. Bought gloves and mittens and some food. Chuck, a weekender staying at the hostel, drove us to town where I called my spouse and ate McDonalds. They got hit with 29 inches! They're calling this the storm of the century. Lots of time spent by the heater in store and talking to folks. Dinner was hamburger, OJ and chips. Great! Met the Sawman or Bear, Eggman, Lowrider, Razor's edge, Overload , and Bluejeans. There are 8 of us total here - we are the only women. Had birthday cake made by the Hansens. Repacked our food and sent letters. A great day and much, much warmer. Even without heat in here. Jeff said Sue and I are probably in the lowest 10 people to come through this entire year in pack weight.


    We had carefully studied the map and noted a bend in the road, a point to aim for in case we ended up on a long search for Neels Gap. I'm not sure how much of the trail down we were actually on, but taking 4-foot strides down the mountain in sunny weather made for an easy day. About half a mile from Neel's Gap we saw 2 weekenders who had camped out Saturday night, presumably to test their winter gear. They were the first people we had seen since leaving Hawk Mountain shelter three days earlier.

    Our arrival at the Walisi-Yi was something of a surprise to Jeff. Apparently efforts to account for all potential thru-hikers had missed us. This was not surprising since there was no place to register at Amicalola if you did not leave there during business hours, and our spouses figured there was no need to start rescue proceedings unless we failed to make contact by Monday. I heard that the hostels and other establishments had tried to account for all hikers, but we had only encountered two other sets of hikers and it was chaos trying to figure things out before losing services, so were missed. We were very disappointed to hear that our daydreams of hot showers, laundry, heated rooms, running water, electric lights and phone service would remain fantasies because of the storm damage. Neels Gap was on well water, but hadn't sustained much damage except for some blow downs closing the "trail" beneath the building.

    I often hear that if a storm comes through, you can just hole up in a town for a few days. But to do so, first you have to get there, and then you have to hope that the place has running water. Electricity and heat are nice to have, but heading out of the hostel to walk down the road till you got to a good spot instead of heading the bathroom in the middle of the night gets old fast. And when there's a large concentration of folks doing for a long time it's not where I'd prefer to be.

    The ride into town was the best trail magic I've ever had. I stood in line outside in the cold, waiting for locals to make calls (most folks had lost phones as well as power) very thankful to be able to make a few quick calls to let folks know I was alive.

  15. #15
    Registered User Dr. Professor's Avatar
    Join Date
    10-31-2012
    Location
    Roanoke, Va
    Age
    45
    Posts
    212
    Images
    3

    Default

    Sweet post; thanks for sharing.

  16. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    02-17-2013
    Location
    Philadelphia
    Age
    27
    Posts
    32

    Default

    I was born in that blizzard. I was born the 15th of March, 1993, and the medics had to come get my mom from our house in the mountains of NC with ATVs and sleds to get us to the highway where the ambulance was.

  17. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    03-01-2004
    Location
    Tampa, FL
    Age
    70
    Posts
    588
    Images
    12

    Default

    Ironically, that storm was called the "no-name" hurricane in Florida with a 12 foot tidal surge that hit Pine Island. US19 was covered in 8 feet of saltwater in Citrus County. That was one massive storm. Lots of damage, and it came months after Hurricane Andrew. I was almost ready to move back north.

  18. #18
    lemon b's Avatar
    Join Date
    06-17-2011
    Location
    4 miles from Trailhead in Becket, Ma.
    Age
    65
    Posts
    1,277
    Journal Entries
    1
    Images
    56

    Default

    Thanks Bati. Sounds like you two dodged a bullet. One thing for sure ya won't forget.

  19. #19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lemon b View Post
    One thing for sure ya won't forget.
    You're right about that! My winter experience would soon be over, but never forgotten.

    The next morning, March 15, all the thru hikers left Neels Gap in search of the nearest shower. In many places the path from a shelter to a road would be broken, but the trail North of the road was untrodden snow. We continued to navigate the untrodden areas with map and compass, "bushwhacking" up and down the mountains. We'd drop our pack at the peaks, split up and search for a blaze, cut blow downs, or other sign that we were on the trail. Our progress was slow, but steady, and by the 19th of March, my partner and I had covered the 37 miles to Dick's Creek Gap. At the suggestion of Kilgore Trout, who had been lucky enough to survive the storm in a hotel room (and kind enough to appease our incredible appetites with gorp), we hitched into Hiawassee. We resupplied at the grocery store, had our first shower of the trip at the Blueberry Patch, met the rest of the Neel's Gap crew there, and continued on again the next day.

    Some days were good, and we could travel 10 miles before darkness fell. Others were not so good; on our shortest day after leaving Neel's Gap we spent an entire day struggling to reach a shelter a mere four miles distant. But gradually we encountered more miles of broken trail, (and our travel was made simpler. We began to see signs that the snow was melting, and sometimes, instead of treading in the footprints of the preceding person, we could actually venture carefully across a thin crust of ice on top of the snow and give welcome relief to aching muscles. After a near eternity of tramping through snow one day we spotted a patch of muddy brown trail. The welcome rains that raged on the 22nd and 23rd rewarded us with the brown trails that were soon fringed by the faintest hints of spring. Other notable dates included March 16, when we came upon a ghost town of empty tents with no footprints around them. We found out later that a group of boy scouts had been helicoptered out after a fateful decision to try camping in the storm. We only got buzzed by a helicopter once; we waved them off, but it was comforting to know that had we needed help, it would have come had we been able to sit tight for 5 or 6 days. March 20, the first day we were comfortable enough to hike "alone"- perhaps 20 minutes apart. March 21, the first morning since the storm when I woke up to find that my boots had not frozen, though they were still soaked and I still wore bags on my feet. March 25, a day that was so warm, I actually wore shorts for part of it. March 26, my first off-day, which I spent at the NOC, preparing fro my partner to leave by swapping out my tent for a bivy. March 30, when I started into the empty Smokies, the park had re-opened a few days earlier. April 1, when I met an actual ranger at Newfound Gap who warned of us a possible storm that night; it turned out to not be much, just another 6 inches or so, and I was lucky enough to have someone else to break trail the next morning. April 16, on Roan mountain when I filtered snowmelt off the trail, too scared of the ice to try to find the spring (2 of 6 hiker who passed through a day after us broke an arm on the trail near there.) April 22, when I sat by the window in the Place and watched the snow flurries fall, unaware that it was the last time that spring that I would be snowed upon. Damascus was also the first place where I met a hiker that had started after me. I'm not a fast hiker, but the storm had prevented anyone from starting for such a long time, that it took that long for the first folks who started after the storm doing high mileage days in dirt, not snow, and catch up.

    I was lucky to hike at a time where the thru-hikers were not in competition; if another hiker was ahead of you, you could be thankful you weren't breaking trail. We packed shelters when the rains fell on melting snow, I recall 9 people crammed so tightly into Sassafras Gap shelter that folks couldn't sleep on their backs. Everyone at a shelter or campsite would share in the group conversation, and we'd all wake up and leave around the same time. The sense of camaraderie on the trail isn't as strong in good times as in bad but it was something that helped us all cope with the situation.

    In summary, our blizzard experience was enjoyable, and, with the exception of the hike up Blood Mountain, something neither of us would mind repeating. Had we followed the suggested clothing advice, not packed extra food, carried heavier packs, not had map and compass skills, not been in shape, or been inexperienced enough to panic, we would have had a miserable, possibly even fatal trip. We were lucky to have outdoorsy spouses who looked over our gear lists, and didn't panic. We were very lucky not to be in the Smokies when the storm hit. While we made many mistakes, most notably underestimating the severity of the storm when it started Friday night, none of them resulted in permanent harm to us. While my first days on the trail were certainly not the most pleasant ones I've had, they are days that I will always remember fondly.

    That's all! Hope you enjoyed the story.

  20. #20

    Default

    Great story, enjoyed readying that, was almost like straight out of a novel! hehe

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
++ New Posts ++

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •