Monday, March 3, 2014

The Winter of Little Hiking

This winter has been tough, not only here in Tennessee, but really across much of the country, so I'm not really going to complain too loudly, but as a result I've been able to do very little hiking.  It seems that what little pretty weather was to be had in our region always came during the week.  Weekends were cold and rainy or even found the mountains blanketed in deep snow during bitterly cold temperatures that, honestly, I was a little afraid of.  In hopes of finding the opportunity to do some hiking in the snow, I purchased some microspikes, but road closures and my ability to get TO the mountains impeded my best intentions and I've been unable to test them out.  I did carry them with me on December 31, 2013 when we did a little jaunt in the Cosby/Big Creek area though. It was during this hike on Low Gap I and Low Gap II that I experienced a winter fairyland at Low Gap unlike anything I'd ever seen before.
Suddenly, the fog above us began to lift, as a cold wind began to blow, forcing us to stop and put our coats back on.  We had shed them earlier in the hike because, as usual on a steep ascent, we were beginning to sweat.  Perspiration was no longer an issue as the cold wind blew through us.  Walking up the last quarter mile before Low Gap, you could see the surroundings change from green to sparkling ice.  The sun's rays glistened through tiny prisms of crystallized water vapor literally clinging to everything.  
As we approached the top of the trail at Low Gap, bitterly cold winds blew so hard it was all we could do to operate our cameras to capture the sight.  Staying for long, in spite of how much we wanted to tarry and take in all the splendor was simply unwise.  Stepping a mere 15 feet down the trail and off that high point where trails meet was enough to protect us from immediate hypothermia, but that experience drove home the intense respect one must maintain for these mountains.  

It never snowed or even rained on us that day, but it was the coldest I've ever been in all my hiking in these mountains.  I never did really get warm again until I was home even though we still had another 7 miles or so to hike on that day.  

Since that hike, I've only hiked two other times this winter.  One hike was just a short jaunt into the mountains to stretch my legs on a trail I'd already hike twice before--really just an opportunity to spend some time with good friends.  The only other hike happened this past weekend and there's a blog post to come on that one.  

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