Day 22: Icewater Spring

Day 22. Well, it certainly heated up fast in the valley. After two days of the snowy frigid conditions in Gatlinburg, today it was 45 degrees and felt like summer in the city. The road up to the mountains opened around noon, so we collected our stuff and shuttled back up to Newfound Gap and to the Appalachian Trail.

Talking to our shuttle driver (Sherpa Matt, who is helping his girlfriend Sparkles to slack-pack), they supposedly got 12” of snow at the pass over the past 48 hours. Spoiler alert, it was more.

Before going up, we still had a half-day to kill, so I asked Sherpa Matt for a ride to the nearest Verizon store. I’ve had issues with my old iPhone and needed to replace it with a more reliable model. Not sure if rain on the trail caused it or something else, but it was having trouble taking a charge. There was a store about 15 miles away and he was happy to oblige for a small fee. A few minutes later I was upgraded to an iPhone 8 and ready to roll.

Side note, with the bigger phone now, I’m sending my Kindle home. Although it’s nice to read on the e-paper screen, it is now a pound of unnecessary luxury weight I need to rid myself of. Doing so also helps me offset the weight of my new Thermarest pad. Space is tight in the backpack, and it already got a crack in the screen from tight packing anyways. Long story short for future thruhikers … get a bigger phone, leave any other screen device behind.

On the way back to Gatlinburg, I was able to fully witness the expansive theme park cities of Tennessee. Pigeon Forge is a massive highway of amusement parks, kiddie adventures, and family activities. On the drive I saw gigantic sized replicas of an upside down plantation house, the Titanic, Empire State Building (with hanging King King), and more. Each one was a museum, fun house, or adventure activity to be seen. You could spend a year (and a year’s salary) visiting them all and still only scratch the surface. And yes, we got a sneak peak at Dollywood too.

After all was done, we finally got shuttled back up to Newfound Gap. We arrived around 3:30pm and hiked the minimum distance (3 miles) to the first shelter. Everyone we were hiking with before has since moved on, but there are a few familiar faces with us … mainly those who shacked up in Gatlinburg next to us. So me, Nubs, Fun Facts, Culligan, Chickapea, Espresso, Chapstick, Packout, and Clover are doing our best to stay warm.

Why is that, you say? Didn’t you just say it felt like summer in the city? Yeah, it was, BELOW the mountains. Up here back at 5000+ feet it is a winter wonderland. The 3 mile hike was slow and monotonous, as every step was atop snow atop ice atop frozen ground. The temperature up here is 20 degrees colder, and the snow along the trail is anywhere from 6 to 24 inches deep. Some of it is packed down by other hikers, but not enough to keep it out of your boots. Especially if you were dumb like me and forgot to put on your gaiters. A stupid rookie mistake that I was too cold to remedy.

At the shelter, we did our best to get a fire started and stay warm. Nubs and Culligan disappeared for a while and came back with a 30 foot fallen tree that they then proceeded to hack and splinter into manageably sized pieces to burn. With the help of some fire starter logs, they and Espresso were able to get a fire lit … but keeping it going proved near impossible. With all the wood being water logged and frozen, it required constant care. I have to hand I to those guys though, they made it work as best they could. And even cooked up some s’mores … which Nubs has never had before.

It is 6:30 now and I’m wrapped tight in my quilts above my new (and very loved) sleeping pad. I don’t plan to move again for at least 12 hours, when we will enter the frozen tundra once again. It’s going to be slow moving, but we will get to the next town of Hot Springs eventually.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 207.3
  • Start Time: 15:15
  • End Mile: 210.4
  • End Time: 16:50
  • Miles Hiked: 3.1
  • Miles to Go: 1980.5
  • Lodging: Icewater Spring Shelter

16 thoughts on “Day 22: Icewater Spring

  1. Returning to the trail after Gatlinburg may be considered a sort of literary milestone. Gatlinburg is where the protagonists of the best-seller “A Walk in the Woods” started yellowblazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hiking in the cold and snow was never my idea of fun. It’s hard to stay warm, dry and motivated. I have to commend you for your tenacity. Good luck and Happy Trails

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mike. Glad to heat you’re back on the trail again. I mentioned you and ‘J,’ on my blog today, along with your blog-links, in case folks are interested in following your adventures as you head north toward Katahdin. Get warmed and rested up tonight, for the next lap! That’s what zero/nero days are for! Don’t forget ur gaiters tomorrow morning!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A host of challenges today to be sure, but then the AT has never had to deal with a Neiman before. Glad that you were able to work out new options. You are one of the best creative problem-solvers I know 🙂
    mom & dad


  5. I bet a stop and restart like that was pretty tough. I do have a quick question for you. I will be in Gatlinburg, April 9th for a 3 daty 35 Mi Loop, starting at Elkmont Campground to Clingmans Dome. Will be staying at Backcountry Camp #23 and Silers Bald Shelter.
    I have been worried about the weather and my sleeping bag. Curious if your 20 degree quilt has been warm enough. I have a 30 degree bag and been thinking of getting a 15 degree for the trip in a couple of weeks. Curious on your thoughts.

    P.S. When are you posting the walking taco recipe? lol


    • Hey Mike, that sounds like a great trip. The 20 degree bag is just barely enough. I wore all my clothes last night and with the help of a thicker air mattress, was able to stay warm. By April 9th, you should be in much better shape in regards to weather also. I’d recommend a sleeping bag liner (very popular option out here). Then I think you’d be good to go!

      Check out the page on this blog called Meals, the recipe us under “Week 3” I believe. Enjoy!


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