Winter Appalachian Trail – Day 74 (19 miles)
With the storm hitting today, we decided to hit the trail just before dawn in order to make as many miles as possible before the snow really started to accumulate.
We made alright progress for the first few hours. It was tough, tiring work breaking trail. To counter this and keep us fresh, we swapped the leader (or snow plough) ever 30 minutes.
By 9 am the light snow turned exceptionally heavy. It stayed this way until after nightfall. By the end of the day, the forecasted 9 inches was looking rather wrong. There was close to 2 feet of fresh powder on the ground. I was falling up to my waist on some of the deeper drifts.
At 11 am we stopped for a break at a shelter. Here we treated Rat’s feet – they have been constantly waterlogged and beginning to chaff. A bit of sports tape to prevent friction and I lent her my waterproof socks to keep her feet dry. It did the trick, by the end of the day the pain had reduced significantly.
We then continued on for another hour and the temperature warmed slightly to around freezing. It was still snowing but now the snow was wet and cold. I went from hiking in just my poncho to adding my rain jacket, then rain pants and finally my rain mitts. I have only needed all this once before on the AT.
Our last obstacle for the day was High Point Summit. It was slow, hard and incredibly beautiful. The snow had accumulated enough that it looked like a majestic white painting, with every inch of the ground and trees covered in powdery snow.
Unfortunately, this meant that we had no idea what was under our feet. I would step on a 45-degree rock and my foot would slide out from underneath me, leading to many stumbles and a few falls. it also slowed us down to less than 1.5 miles/hour (2.4km/hr). We arrived at a shelter before nightfall. There was no chance we would make the next shelter so we headed in. I think all of us were happy with this as we were exceeding wet and tried from our efforts.
It was a challenging but rather fun day.
On other news, another 14-inch storm is predicted this weekend…. Skies?