Winter Appalachian Trail – Day 28 (28 miles)
Today might be the best full day of hiking on the trail yet.
It was around the mid 20F (-3C) when I got up this morning. I got up slightly before dawn because the weather prediction was fantastic and I wanted to make the most of the little daylight available. (I also needed to go to the toilet)
As soon as I started hiking I began to climb with a couple of peaks on the way to Mt Rogers. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground the whole way up. Better yet, as I got near the top the clouds parted and the sun came out. I almost forgot what rays of light looked like. Sun, pines and snow would have been a pretty good day by itself.
The temperature dropped a bit as I climbed and the trail turned to ice. I took a bit of a detour and climbed the extra bit to the top of Mt Rogers. It had outstanding views in every direction.
The icy trail continued and even got worse as I made my way to and then through the Grayson Highlands SP. I ended up hopping from rock to rock then worry about taking on and off my pocket cleats .
The views from the bald mountain tops was worth the effort. It was so nice to spend a few hours walking through the open vistas.
I have not mentioned the ponies! I spent the first half of the park looking for them. I saw their poo everywhere but not the animals themselves. The second half I saw 15 of the cute little things. They were sure not timid and let me get fairly close without giving me a second thought.
It was then time to descend. The frozen ground turned to sloppy mud and all the care I took to keep my feet dry up to this point turned out to be a waste. More frozen shoes tomorrow!
Without the scenery I noticed that my body was kind of tired and that I had not stopped at all for the 24 miles I had covered today. I looked at my maps and realised that it was only another 4 miles to the shelter and, better yet, if I kept going I would get there before dark. No night hiking!
I got into camp fairly tired, ate and then went to bed early. I will be hiking before dawn tomorrow as the weather prediction is for considerable snow in the afternoon. Maybe I can finish before the storm hits?