Winter Appalachian Trail – Day 19 (20 miles)
@kk_hikes and I had breakfast at house in Asheville then headed to Hot Springs to finally get back on trail.
When we arrived, and after visiting the restrooms, we walked out of town by crossing the French Broad River. This turned out to be a really interesting start to the day. It is a sizable river but was semi-frozen over. The banks, protruding rocks and part of the river were ice. The bits that had not frozen carried slushy water downstream.
We then climbed into the mountains. It felt so good to be back hiking again after several days off.
It was fantastic having Karate Kid around. I met him on the PCT in 2015. Since then he has completed the Triple Crown of hiking and just finished the 1,100 mile long Mountains to the Sea Trail.
He is also a hiking guide for the region around the Smokies. I assume from this he has developed a huge knowledge of the area. I got some great incites into the local fauna, flora and history, with KK teaching me how to identify some of the plants and also showing me the invasive bugs killing some of the evergreens.
It was also great to simply reminisce about our shared hiking adventures.
The day was magnificent but cold. It was below freezing the entire day, yet the sun was out and there was nowhere to be found in the sky. The temperature did fluctuate all day from maybe highs of 30F (-1C) to lows of 20F (-6C). A certain gully or the shady/sunny side of the mountain would cause me to take off or add a layer all day.
The one thing that amazed me was the 5 SOBOs that I encountered. Two ladies, Smiles (@hikingtonovember) and ??? (I forgot her name), both seemed in great spirits, and were making their way south. I have to admire their perseverance.
There was also another group of three guys that passed our shelter as I was setting up camp.
The last thing to note was that whoever was last stayed at the shelter did not extinguish the fire to the extent that KK got a fire going with just the hit coal. Please, please double check your fires.