Day 21: Merry Christmas!

What a day! A whole new set of challenges: hiking uphill in a foot of snow!

I knew the uphill would be challenging—seven miles or so, at a constant elevation gain. I was on the trail by headlamp at 7 AM. It didn’t actually feel too bad at first. Just the typical gentle incline through bare trees and brown leaves.

A couple of miles into the hike there was a stone memorial right on the trail. The plaque read, On December 7, 1968, 783 feet southwest from this point, Wade A. Sutton, North Carolina Forest Service Ranger, gave his life suppressing a forest fire, that you might more fully enjoy your hike along this trail. All around the monument, hikers have placed small stones. It was a chilling, reverent moment, especially since the trail itself continued southwest. I placed a stone and stood silently for a moment to thank Wade Sutton for his sacrifice.

The day got challenging after that. The incline continued, steeply at times. The new pack weight felt great, but at a certain elevation the ground vanished under the snow.

And that was the day. Snow snow snow snow snow snow snow. It obscured the rocks and roots, so the uphills were dangerous. It hid the trail, and the trees were dusted with puffs of white, so even the blazes were useless.

Luckily, one intrepid hiker had started before me. I stuck to his bootprints like white on… well, snow. A few times I was convinced we were off the trail. Wading through hip-high drifts, I just flailed and followed that invisible hiker. I talked to him, too. I called him Beanpole, just because his stride was so much longer than mine.

Coming down the steep slopes was treacherous—more suitable for sledding than walking. I fell a lot, and I came down hard a few times. I’m sure I have a few bruises. But all’s well.

I stopped at the first flattish spot with minimal snow. Blackhawk Bob and PopPop are here, as well as New Yorker PeePaw. I imagine there will be others.

As for me, my shoes are drenched, along with my socks. I’m freezing, but I should warm up when I shut down here. No more snow tonight, but it’ll be in the teens. I didn’t pee, I didn’t brush my teeth… just get warm and dry, and deal with the rest of it later. (Don’t tell my dentist!)

The Smokes have two feet of fresh snow. I’m hearing that hikers have started up and had to turn back after 7 miles. I wish I had microspikes. Without them, I don’t think I can get enough traction to stay safe.

I’m 17 miles from Fontana. Tomorrow I’ll head for a shelter. I might see if I can get a room at the Fontana Lodge for the next night and the one after that—an expense I can’t afford, but it would give that snow an extra day to melt.

We’ll see how it goes!

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Day 21: Merry Christmas!

  1. Hey Karma can a festie give you a financial hand to afford the stay in Fontana?

    • {{{Red!}}}

      You’re so generous! Thank you so much!

      I did put aside some emergency cash, and I think this qualifies. I’d probably be wisest to use that down here where it’s still reasonably priced, and hold off on getting help until later, when problems would be more desperate.

      I love that you’re so kind and supportive. You’re the best! I’m hoping to put together some mail drop info—if not for Hot Springs, then maybe Harper’s Ferry. Gotta get through those freaking Smokies!

      • Okay then, but remember the offer and take advantage when you need. Thanks for sharing this incredible journey.

  2. Hang in there. Your doing great with the conditions you have been dealt.

  3. Marge

    White out! Whew, Karma13! Stay safe, my friend. Love you

  4. Kicking ass, my friend!

    I felt like crying after shoveling 3 feet of snow out of my driveway. You are my new hero!!

    That kind of snow can be bitter and it can get you down fast. However, there is something about conquering snow that is soooo invigorating! Keep going!!! You can do it!! 🙂

  5. Hoping for better weather for you. Reading your blog is always a highlight of my day.

  6. Janet

    What an undertaking. The snow is so beautiful and so powerful. I like that your first thought is safety. Also happy that you didn’t break a pole or a leg. Be well. Miss you.

  7. Donna

    I agreed with Janet; safety first! Warm-up and dry out. Will miss you tonight and if your ears are ringing we’re talking about our friend and hero. Happy trails & ((hugs)).

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