Dear Herm’s Hikers,
Happy Easter from Franklin, NC! Finally crossed the first state line from Georgia to North Carolina, but not without a price. The last day in Georgia we hiked in a blizzard with temperatures in the low 30’s and sustained winds at 35 to 40 MPH. Add in the fact that we hiking a mountain treeline, and you can see what a difficult day it was. The hike up the mountain was almost a mile straight up in less than a thousand feet IN THE WIND. It seems that every mountain down here is a mile straight up in less than a thousand feet, and there are at least two such mountain peaks everyday. On the leeward side, the wind abated as the trail switchbacked to the bottom. Speaking of Mother Nature’s cruel tricks, the sun was shining in a valley about two peaks away. At the bottom of the mountain, there was a gap with a campsite. Rejoice for we have a home for a night, but don;t rejoice for too long. Without a doubt, it was the coldest night of my life. With snow on the ground, the gap was like a freezer or more like a meat locker since it was filled with my fellow hikers. The air termpeature was in the high teens, not counting the wind chill factor. Everyone was in there tents and sleeping bags at 7:30. Thanks to a good tent (Big Agnes Seedhouse) and a good sleeping bag (MountainHardWear Phantom 15), I was in great shape. I simply put on my wool underwear (Minus 33) and zipped the sleeping bag over my head. It was a very comfortable, considering my house for the night was four flimsy walls of treated nylon fabric.
The next morning there was another mountain hike in the snow and slush (4 to 6 inches) before the border of GA/NC. It was enough for a brief snowball fight on the summit. That certainly lifted everyone’s spirits as a coping mechanism with the weather. At the border, there was some trail magic, a can of Bud and a miniature of Bushmill’s Irish whiskey. Of course, I took the Irish whiskey. I’ll save it for a toast on Mt. Katahdin, if and when.
Not enough for an orderal by ice, Mother Nature treated us to a thunder storm this morning on Albert Mountain, a five thousand foot summit in NC. For the last 200 yards, we climbed hand over hand to reach the peak to find everything shrouded in a thick fog. At the top, it was a few brief, yet terrifying, minutes of thunder and lightning with no place to seek shelter. I had never been so close, yet so far, from heaven. It was loud enough to make your teeth rattle. One of these days and one of thes mountains, I will be able to see the distant horizon. On the opposite side of the peak, it rained a wall of water for nearly two hours. At times, there was more water running down the trail than the mountain streams. Thank God for Goretex! It’s still the best fabric around. The rain has stopped, but the sun has not shined. Today, the weather forecast is for tornadoes in this part of the country. It’s good to be off the trail on a day like today.
There has been a number of dropouts due to injures, such a broken/cracked ankles, torn cartilage/ACL’s, etc.). Needless to say, the mountains are not forgiving. To be ill-equipped is to be ill-fated. Too many people with backpack weighing 60 pounds and more, carrrying everthing from pots and pans. I have not seen a kitchen sink, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
What’s sad to see is those hikers who came prepared but were forced to leave the trail through no fault of their own. To them I say “You did not quit. The mountain merely told you it was time to go home.” I salute your courage for undertaking this adventure with the right spirit and the right equipment. I hope it is many miles and months before the mountains tell me it is time to go home! Onward to the Great Smoky Mountains! Have a joyous holiday with your love ones! Keep me in your prayers! Happy trails until we meet again!
Today’s interesting character – Ancient Ruins, a retired inspector/detective from Scotland and later Australia. Needless to say, he has some great stories to tell.