We climbed out of Hampton TN on Tuesday morning and headed through Laurel Canyon and the beautiful Laurel Falls. The hiking in Tennessee has been interesting because we are passing through a mixture of private land with easements for the AT and some state parks. Most of today’s hike went along side the Watauga lake and dam. There were some steep climbs around the dam and the views were cool of the earth dam construction.
We stopped for lunch along side an abandoned restroom and huddled against the wall to get out of the wind. It wasn’t glamorous but it got the job done. I was surprised that we weren’t harassed by the police given our drowned rat attire but I wouldn’t want to come near us either. The rest of the hike was pretty easy and we arrived near the Vanderveder Shelter just in time for the rain. I set up my tent behind the shelter in an area that quickly turned into an big mud pit.
We woke up at 5 to a miserable freezing rain/fog combination and it took me forever to get my tent packed up. It was so cold that I had to take breaks to warm my hands up before diving back into wrestling with a frozen wet tent. As I was headed back around the shelter I banged my head on the shelter awning so hard that it knocked me straight back on my butt. After the packing fiasco was over we headed out on our 23 mile hike at 6:30.
When the sun came up we realized that the trail was covered in snow and it was beautiful and quiet but damn cold. Our gloves were soaked so we had to hike with our hands buried in our pockets for the rest of the morning. When we got about half way we came through a part of the AT that crosses through a beautiful private farm.
As we looked back across the grazing field we saw the most amazing view of the mountains we just hiked through and the bright line of snow and ice that looked like it had been painted on. As tough as today was it is times like these that make it all worth it. We were just a handful of lucky people to see that beautiful work of nature at the right time.
Ok – back to the miserable parts. The sun peaked out for a minute and then another round of storms came through as we were about 8 miles from finishing our long day. We were pelted with ice, snow, rain and sleet as we made our way over the last few hills. This derelict little Boy Scout hut almost became our shelter but we decided to push on to Abington Gap in hopes the tent sites were a little drier.
Nope. The Abington Shelter area was covered in snow too but I found a pretty good site and set up tent and ate a nice big dinner. Days like this on the AT really make you appreciate the easy warm ones but to be honest I felt really good when I got into camp tonight. It was an honest day’s work and my body and mind were tired but proud. I also have two sweet nights coming up in a fancy B&B in Damascus to look forward to! Bring on the soft bed and hot shower.