Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Many Moons Ago

A very, very, very long time ago I went on a three-day backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The end of the backpack had us leaving the trails on the first day of May. Warm weather, you say? LOL! Nay-nay, say I.

Just before we arrived, the upper elevations of the Park got hit with a super-heavy snow event. Up to three feet on the highest peaks. We began the trip in Smokemont (where there was almost no snow at all), climbed up the spine of the ridge where we spent the evening in a trail shelter. Then we were supposed to have camped on the summit of LeConte (eleation 6,594 feet). But the snow was so deep that we just got physically worn down from post-holing in the deep drifts. That really tires you out.

Thus, about a mile short of the summit, we had to make camp in the forest or else get caught in the dark. Sleeping on packed snow was the most uncomfortable camping experience that I can recall. I didn't get cold because I had lots of insulation beneath me and was using a down bag. But the ice formed steel-hard ridges under me and made sleeping an adventure in pain management.

At any rate, enjoy very old photos of a very young me backpacking in deep snow when the weather should have been much warmer.

Yours truly at Charlies Bunion. One of my favorite Smoky Mountain summits. The snow was deep here, but we had no idea how deep it was going to be. The slog was already tough, and I was feeling really bad at this point (roughly 5400 feet above sea level).
Trying to head up LeConte. The snow at this point was knee-deep. We were breaking trail much of the way. Hiking through snow that deep is very difficult and it only got deeper farther up. We were on the Boulevard Trail not too far from the Appalachian Trail junction.
The days of the old instamatic film cameras. Digital cameras weren't even a gleam in some computer geek's eyes at that point.
This is where we gave up the ghost and realized we were not going to make the summit before dark. So we figured the best thing to do was pitch the tent and camp on this ridge. The night was cold, but the skies remained clear and no more snow fell, so we didn't have to deal with that. In the morning, we just packed up and headed down to Newfound Gap.
Checking my trail guide as we made our way out. I think this was at the junction of The Boulevard and the Appalachian Trail. It was all downhill from here to Newfound Gap.

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