Ok, back from a dip in the springs…
Nothing sexier than 6 grown men with blistered feet wearing hiking shorts crammed into a hot tub. Despite that it was great to soak in the mineral waters and chew the fat and I feel a lot more relaxed.
Ok so where I left off last post I was soaked but drying ok, running a little short on food as I had underestimated a little but still nothing too bad, I still had 2 power bars, 2 ‘granola’ (museli) bars, 2 packets of pasta and a packet of tuna. The rain kept going all night and into the morning and I wasn’t prepared to take a ‘zero day’ (no mile day) as we planned to take one at Hot Springs and I didn’t really have enough food to do that. Instead I packed as much of my gear that I could whilst into the tent, put on my wet hiking clothes (and boots.. squelch) then tore down the tent and shoved it into the backpack.
Day 6 walking, whilst technically not in the Smokies anymore I still group it together as I regard going into town as the start/end point of each ‘session’. Day 6 was wet, soaking, continual dripping wet. Day 6 was cold, freezing, bitterly cold. Day 6 added a new dimension to the walk, some unvegetated summits which were more like the rolling moors in scotland with icy cold wind blasting unhindered by any trees.
I hiked onward, there was no point stopping anywhere as there wasn’t any shelter and I wanted to catch up to John and Dallas (who were actually behind me. I hiked for 10 miles until I came to a shelter frozen, numb and cold. I’d eaten one of the pasta packs for breakfast and had planned to only have 1 power bar for lunch but the cold had leeched everything out of me so I ended up putting on warm clothes and eating everything I had except the tuna and pasta pack (for dinner) and 1 muesli bar (for breakfast). After lunch I was feeling a bit more human and luckily there were no more windswept summits ahead so I pushed on. As I came across other crazy hikers I’d ask them if they’d seen the boys and I would get vague responses which convinced me that they were still ahead. Then the temperature started to drop and when I got to the next shelter the hikers there told me that it was forecast for 20 degrees farenheit. Now I knew that was going to be cold, but for some reason I thought 0 degrees farenheit = 0 degrees celcius, so I thought well at least it wont be freezing. However as I’m now aware 32 degrees farenheit = 0 degrees celcius and believe me it makes a difference. Blissfully unaware I found a nice campsite about 10 miles out of Hot Springs, at altitude and set up my wet camp, unfortunately a stick had ripped my garbage bag and the bottom of my backpack had got wet which meant the end of my sleeping bag had got soaked. As I was cooking dinner Dallas came into camp, he’d been chasing me all day and even run up Bluff Mountain in order to catch up. There wasn’t much time for civilties though as it was getting really cold and we had to try and warm up for the night ahead. It was a miserable night for me.. I couldn’t stretch out my legs or else my feet would get wet and I only had the bare minimum clothes on as everything else was soaked. Still I managed to sleep eventually and woke up to find the tent covered in snow and everything that had been wet frozen.
Try to picture this, me with numb hands trying to take down my tent (of which the fly is held by clasps which had frozen) every 10 seconds or so blowing onto my hands to try and get them to work. I couldn’t for the life of me get the poles out as they are tensioned into slots but luckily Dallas is from cold country and did it for me. He also had to tie my shoelaces as I couldn’t grip them either lol.
Finally the nightmare of breaking camp was over and we ran down Bluff mountain (2-3 miles) by which time my feet began to get feeling. Dallas said it was just a bit of sleet but I’m not calling my 2nd time in snow sleet and I’m also calling the small specks of falling snow that morning a blizzard.
I’ll definitely give the points to the Smokies for that morning as I felt like a big baby having to ask to get my shoelaces tied. Still at least I feel like I’ve earnt this zero day today, it’s a hard life when you get to have a holiday inside a holiday
And no… there’s no ‘Return of the Smokies’ planned