Day 23. Last night was damn cold, today was damn cold and damn wet. The water pipe at Icewater Spring Shelter was doing it’s best impression of its name and froze over, as did my water bottles last night, so there was very little water consumption today. We hit a trickling stream about 6 miles later and finally got a bottle filled and downed, but it was too cold to wait and do it again, I know that is dangerous, but I had to keep moving.
We hiked a total of 12.6 miles in the snow as fast as possible and then all ate double dinners at the shelter, which we reached in 6 hours. Given how hard it is to hike speedy and safely in the snow, I’d say that was darn good time.
After a couple hours, the rest of last night’s shelter-mates arrived, but no one else. I think most hikers behind us are waiting it out in Gatlinburg. Smart people.
I really enjoyed the first half of the Smokies, but doing this back half in these conditions is just not that fun. It’s a beautiful hike during the day, sure, but mornings and nights are just miserable. The second you stop walking, you begin to freeze. With temps in the teens at best, it’s a very hard to do anything at camp besides eat (fast) and crawl in bed. I had done some winter camping in the past, but it’s a bit rougher up here at 6,000 feet.
With at least 15 hours until tomorrow’s wake and hike, I strongly considered going another 8 miles to Cosby Knob Shelter. But now there is rain on the horizon too, and the fatigue of hiking uphill in snow is wearing on me. I felt some strain in my left hamstring late in the day, and I do not want to press my luck with it. No need to push on now, better to just get warm.
So tomorrow’s hike will be 18 miles if possible to close out the Smokies. We will drop 2000 feet in the first 14 miles to the last Shelter, but at the point I’ll probably just go the last few miles (and another 1000 feet down) to the end. In the snow, going downhill is much faster and easier than normal, due to the soft landing for your feet. If all goes well, I’ll update again from Standing Bear Farm.
One last note, we had a great side trail to Charlie’s Bunyan, a beautiful boulder outcropping with incredible views to the north. We took a bunch of photos, while trying not to fall off the cliff to an icy death. It would be a great day hike to do from Newfound Gap again in the future, I’ll add it to the list of reasons to come back this way with the family in the summer.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 210.4
- Start Time: 09:10
- End Mile: 223.0
- End Time: 15:15
- Miles Hiked: 12.6
- Miles to Go: 1967.9
- Lodging: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter