As my June 1 deadline looms nearer, I have spent the past few weeks immersed in the much needed revisions of our Best of the Appalachian Trail books. First written in 1994, they were updated in 2004. Let’s just say a lot has changed in the past 13 years! Interstates have been built and trails relocated for one thing. In addition, thanks to the much appreciated help of Vic Hasler with the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club, I’ve taken his advice and trashed one overnight hike and replaced it with another.
Honestly, I think the new hike is a much better addition. The only reason I can think we didn’t include it to begin with is because when we hiked that section of the Appalachian Trail, we were being chased by rain before being forced to shelter in the former barn–Overmountain Shelter–during an early April blizzard.
Simultaneously, while working on these revisions, I have also been transcribing my trail journals as 2018 will mark the 30th Anniversary of our through hike. Because life tends to work that way, the point I am at in transcribing is also the time we were caught in the snowstorm. Having quit my job as a staff writer for a daily newspaper to hike the A.T., I had fun (as we had hours to waste) describing the adventure in newspaper format. I can’t quite duplicate that here, but it went something like this (The Humps, by the way, are two balds on the Tennessee/North Carolina line that are more than a mile high in elevation.):
THE NOT-YET-OVER-THE-HUMPS NEWS
Yellow Creek Gap, N.C.
A Victoria Steele-Logue-Jones, Esq. Paper
April 7, 1988
Snowstorm traps 15: Boy Scouts, Through-hikers forced to shelter in barn.
Fifteen hikers were trapped at Yellow Creek Gap today when hit by the worst blizzard to strike the area in years. (She wrote the lead with less than 25 words, proving once again her innate sense of journalism.) The storm began early Wednesday with a sprinkle of rain and a wind that would make the willows weep. On the Hump mountains, Troop 357 struggled against the ripping gusts of air. It took several hours for the 13, including three leaders and ten youths, to make it to the Overmountain Shelter.
Through-hikers Frank and Victoria Logue arrived at the shelter slightly soaked just as the first downpour started shortly after 10:30 am. A little more than an hour later, the others began to arrive. Fortunately for the rain-soaked travelers, the barn had more than enough room to offer sanctuary to the entire group.
I won’t continue but suffice to say: because the barn had about an inch of space between its slats, it didn’t take long for snow to coat everyone’s sleeping bags. Also, the wind literally rocked the barn back and forth. It was a hellacious 48 hours. When we finally departed we had to trudge through more than two feet of snow, which, by the time we reached the valley at US 19E, had made the transition from snow to rain as the temperatures grew warmer.
But, having since seen and hiked that area in good weather, it’s truly beautiful and rich in both geologic history and the history of the people of the mountains. In the summer, the Cawtaba rhododendrons in the area are breathtaking.
First, some pictures from yesterday:
The name was too good to be true. Honestly, everything was fine until I walked out of the bathhouse this morning sometime about sunrise–6:44 am. I was even thinking: Ha! I’ve reached a new low (heehee), I can camp when it’s freezing and do okay. And, then, something big and white and fluffy came drifting down from the sky. My first thought, being a South Georgia Girl, was “Ash! Is the Okefenokee burning again?” And almost immediately thereafter, “you’re in Tennessee. That’s . . .” and as I said, “snow,” suddenly the flakes were everywhere. And not the nice dry kind that bounce off things, but the big, moist flakes that land and melt.
Oh no, I thought, my tent! Sure enough, the flakes were sticking to it. And while I was getting the last of my things out of it, my fingers were rapidly becoming numb. And, lest you think I am a wimp, I suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomenon (don’t ask me why it’s a phenomenon). By the time I was trying to fold the rain fly, my fingers were crossing the line from Raynaud’s and heading down that dark alley toward frostbite. I ended up having to just stuff my tent and tarp into the back of the car before running to the bathhouse in indescribable pain as my fingers were turning a deep purple. The pain was intense (and I have a high tolerance for pain) but I was able to bring the feeling back by running them under cool water; anything hotter hurt.
Feeling human again, I drove to Natchez Trace where the attendant was kind enough to refund my campsite (as it was snowing and supposed to plummet to 23-degrees tonight and she agreed a tent wasn’t a good idea). I did, by the way, hike my trails in 37 degrees and snow. I had problems with my Raynauds on the the first trail (those lake winds) but was fine on the second–a pretty little trail through some former erosion gullies which I forgot the name of because I kept calling it “Fern Gully” to myself.
So, 23 and snowing. Time to head South! Who knew that I would drive for more than an hour in a blizzard between I-40 and I-24? My windshield wipers were so caked with snow they could hardly move. I’m laughing now at the obstacles life loves to throw in our way, but it was harrowing at the time (for someone who hasn’t driven in snow in a number of years; when I lived in Virginia, it wasn’t that big a deal). And then I arrived in Georgia, and guess what? It was snowing even though it was a lot warmer and the sun was shining. Go figure.