Last night was cold. It was just bitterly cold. It went down into the teens as we all went to bed super early: around 7:00 pm. We survived the night, although my feet were cold and if I let any outside air into my bag, I was instantly chilled. I hope that’s our coldest night out here, but we will have to see what the Smokies have in store for us in the higher elevations.
As we got ready to leave this morning, I struggled to leave my sleeping bag. I had slept with almost all of my clothes on except my hiking shirts, which I had put in the bottom of my sleeping bag to dry out and keep warm. As I went to put my boots on, I instantly realized that they were frozen solid. I’m not joking when I say it took me ten minutes to get my shoes on. I had to blow warm air into them to loosen them up. Thankfully, my feet warmed up after only a few minutes of hiking. I was nervous at first that I could be in danger of frostbite. Our Camelbaks had frozen and our Powerades we had bought in Franklin were slushies, so at least we could drink those to start. The good thing about this morning was that we didn’t have to break down our tent since we had slept in the shelter.
Despite the terribly cold night, the hiking today was so beautiful. It was our first clear day in North Carolina, so we finally got to see the views. The combination of the undisturbed snow of the forest and the bright blue skies made for some unforgettable hiking. We climbed three balds today: Copper Ridge Bald at 5080 ft., Rocky Bald at 5030 ft., and Wesser Bald at 4627 ft. There was an observation tower on top of Wesser where we able to see the best views of the hike so far. We finally got to see the Smokies. They looked daunting in the distance, snow-covered and majestic. I hope some of the snow melts by the time we get there, but I’m fully expecting some snowy hiking again next week. The tower had a 360 degree view of the area. We spent a good amount of time just soaking it all in and literally looking ahead to what we’ve got coming.
Two more falls today and a couple of close calls. As I predicted, my knee is quite purple from my first fall yesterday. I noticed that I’ve got some nice holes in the inside of the back of my shoes from my heels digging into them. My heels are weird and apparently jut out more than most, so I’m not surprised this happened. Along with my extremely high arches and strange toes, my feet are a nightmare to deal with whether I’m hiking or not.
We weren’t tired after reaching the second shelter at 12.6 miles, so we decided to push on. I’m glad we did, because the shelter we’re at tonight is over 2,000 feet lower in elevation than last night. I can already tell you, it makes a huge difference. We hiked 15.5 miles today and are staying at the shelter with Sootie, Pearl, and Hoops, who we met last night.
And I can officially announce that we both have our trail names! Miles’ name is Miles To Go and mine is Flash Gordon, or Flash for short. Miles’ name comes from a line in a Robert Frost poem. My name is actually a nickname I had in sports growing up. I didn’t have a trail name yet and I was talking about it with the hikers we’re staying with tonight. I told them about my old nickname and when I had mentioned it to another hiker last week, he loved it too, so Flash it is. I was kind of hoping for a new name, but I think this one fits me well and will live on as my new trail name!
By the way, the snow and the cold we’re experiencing here in NC is not normal for this time of year from what I hear. We thought we might run into some snow in the Smokies, but we were not expecting it anywhere else. We really hope it warms up soon, because the cold gets old. The snow, I don’t mind as much, but we are certainly ready for spring down here in the south!