No hill for a stepper

At breakfast the announcement came – we received a total of 13″ (33cm) of snow and temps still held at 11F (-11.6C)

We dallied a while drinking the tepid coffee because of the cold as well as the beauty.

We knew we had to push on -back to Appalachian Trail – via an 5.5 mile trail with an inviting name: The Boulevard.

Did we find a Boulevard? No, we traversed a narrow thread with wire guides bolted into cliff faces as handholds. We cut fresh tracks in snow over a foot deep and drifts past our knees.

Gotta hike it all.

It won’t hike itself!

We left the lodge about 10am and arrived at Icewater Spring shelter on the AT at about 3pm. Even with the snow we made decent time considering we blazed trail for two or three miles. Then we met only one other hiker going the opposite way. After passing him we had his footprints to follow in the fresh snow.

As we made dinner a group of nine thru-hikers collected. This bunch connected earlier while hiking the trail as individuals and couples. The snowstorm stranded them in Gatlinburg. When Highway 441 re-opened, they rallied with a few shots at a pub, stopped by the liquor store for a fifth of Fireball cinnamon whiskey, and then journeyed the 3 miles from Newfound Gap to Icewater Spring shelter. Let’s say the first of this bunch to arrive hiked in while the last this bunch stumbled in.

The shelter buzzed with energy and joviality. Most of this boisterous group exploded their packs while toying with the idea of dinner. A couple of them tried to smoke cigarettes inside the shelter. One of them passed out in his damp hiking clothes not on his sleeping pad. Another smothered the small fire with huge wet logs, but only after falling down outside the shelter. Good times!