Remember all that sweet stuff about chasing spring? Geckos, butterflies and rainbows? Forget about it. Virginia pulled a fast one on us last night. I set my tent up on a beautiful field on Chestnut Knob with the plan of sipping my coffee while watching the warm sunrise from my tent. See, doesn’t this look just delightful?
I tucked in early and the wind started to pick up. Around midnight it felt like two clowns were playing tug of war with my rain fly and they were banging my head back and forth all night. I gave up on sleep and just laid there trying to stay warm mummified in my down sleeping bag with just my nose out for fresh air. Around 3AM, I noticed that everything inside the tent was just a little damp and colder than usual. I turned on my headlamp to the fun realization that it was snowing INSIDE my tent! Only two things are truly sacred to a thru hiker. First, hike your own hike. Second, never ever get your puffy coat wet. I had to do some fast maneuvering to keep the puffy safe but my sleeping bag any everything else was covered in an icy sludge.
I peeked outside and we had received a couple of inches overnight and the wind was so strong that it was pushing the snow up under my rain fly and onto the outside of my tent. It accumulated on the outside of my tent and then seeped through as a steady stream of icy cold slush. Well, so much for spring. I got everything packed and then just had the hateful task left of packing up the tent with icy cold hands. It took a little cussing and a few deep breaths but I finally got everything crammed in my pack and Mallwalker and I headed out for our 25 mile hike.
The first 7 miles of the Trail today was along a high exposed ridge line and the wind was coming up the mountain at a steady 30 MPH and blowing snow and ice at us. The terrain was super rocky and covered in snow and ice and we made progress at at a whopping 1.5 MPH. It was so hard to even find the trail in this mess and the white blazes were not a ton of help hidden among the ice and snow on the tree trunks. We just tried to hike as fast as we could to stay warm. My water froze and and I had to move my water system from my pack to carry it across my chest under my coat so that I could thaw the hydration hose.
I don’t thing we said a word to each other until we reached our lunch stop at Noon. We had made it half way through our hike and the sun was coming out and starting to warm things up a bit. I made two rice and tuna burritos and instantly felt better. The rest of the day was long but the weather was perfect. Cold and bright with gentle breezes and no more snow.
We got to Bland, VA at 23 miles and decided to treat ourselves to a night indoors in a warm hotel bed. I needed a mental reset and a DQ Blizzard and both were available right off the trail in Bland. I hope we have another chance at spring soon but in the meantime I’ve cranked this hotel heater up to 80 degrees and am going to make like a starfish in this warm hotel bed and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.