Even with the crowd at Ice Water Spring shelter our collective body heat succumbed to the frigid temps – probably a low around 9-11F (-12.8 to -11.7C). Cold may not compliment me, but it does make the Smokies even more fetching.
After our chilliest breakfast yet we left the shelter for Charlies Bunion Loop Trail – a tenth of a mile spur trail – to see this amazing rock outcropping that projects from the mountain side and its brilliant views.
After hiking 7.4 miles (11.9 km) we stopped on the snowy trail by a spring for lunch. With our packs off, we shifted our weight from one cold, damp foot to the other as we slurped hot coffee to wash down the last two bagels we had. The cold stiffened the peanut butter on those bagels making coffee a necessary lubricant to choke it all down. Sounds miserable and yet this lunch satisfied me so much. I felt very loved.
Then the caffeine kicked in and we found another gear to carry us the final 5.2 miles. That lunch pulled us out of Cooper Gap and fueled us for the climbs past Mt Sequoyah and Mt Chapman.
We made it to Tri-Corner Knob shelter before 5pm.
A few of the thru-hikers from the night before already settled in. As we fixed and ate our dinner more of that same crew rolled in until we had nearly a full house once again. A couple of the most hungover hikers complained and capitulated about hiking dehydrated.
I will never pack out a fifth again leaving town.
Oh, something tells me you will.
The cold and the distance – and perhaps the hangovers – subdued this merry clique of thru-hikers. The scene at Tri-Corner turned 180 degrees from the one at Icewater Spring. All hikers took to their bags by hiker midnight: 7:30pm. A very quiet night.