My daughter and her husband came to spend Christmas with us in Blue Ridge, GA. I foolishly asked them if there was anything special they wanted to do while they were here. They replied, “Go hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail!“
I love hiking and camping, but I can’t say that camping in the winter is one of my favorite things to do. Anyway, it was a good chance to check out our cold weather gear, to make sure we are properly equipped. If we weren’t we would only be out in the Blue Ridge Mountains overnight, and we could possibly survive just one night.
It rained for two days before our scheduled hike, not a drizzle rain, but a continuous drenching downpour. The weatherman said the rain was supposed to stop by 11:00, so we headed out to Hiawassee to jump on the Appalachian Trail where it crossed the highway.
Right away, I knew this wasn’t going to be our “average” hiking experience. The trail was a stream with water pouring out of the mountains. Normally dry creek beds were an adventure crossing. Most of the day, we were hiking in the clouds, without much of a view. On of my favorite times to hike up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains is in the winter, because the leaves have dropped and you can see all of the surrounding mountains. The “wet” also made for a slower pace than we had planned on.
Camping on the Appalachian Trail
We didn’t make it to the Trey Mountain Shelter as planned, as the sun started dropping below the mountain tops, we decided to stop and set up camp. After putting on every warm piece of clothing we had, we started setting up our tents and tried to get a fire going.
The wood was so wet, that I failed and getting the fire going. After 30 minutes we gave up on the fire and cooked our dinner. After dinner, with no fire, we decided that 6:00 was too early to go to sleep, so we all piled into one tent for some cutthroat Uno. It quickly turned into a game of meanness, spite, and vicious attacks on whoever was winning at the time, in other words, it was a great game!
8:00, bedtime! We climbed under our down quilts, fully clothed, coats and all. Once we warmed up a little, the layers started coming off. This is a good thing! It meant that our cold weather gear was sufficient.
Where’s the bathroom?
The wind howled all night as the cold front pushed through. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, and needed to go to the bathroom. Poking my head out, I decided that I didn’t need to go to the bathroom, and told myself to roll over and go back to sleep. That didn’t work, after 30 minutes, I bundled up and ventured out to “take care of business”.
Christmas Eve on the Appalachian Trail
Everything was completely different in the world we woke up to. Below freezing, clear and cold, and the wind was blasting. The moisture in the clouds overnight had frozen as ice crystals on everything, and we were in a Winter Wonderland. There wasn’t any snow on the ground, but all of the trees were white!
As the sun started coming up over the mountains, I think I witnessed on of the most beautiful and surreal sights I have ever seen while hiking. I quickly whipped out my phone to take a picture and got one picture, then the phone died. The cold weather sapped all the charge out of the battery is seconds!
Enjoy this picture, its the only one I got all day. Click on it to see it full size! I would pull my camera out, turn it on, and before it could power up, it shut down again with no charge left. I see that my cold weather survival gear also needs to include something for my camera too!
We hiked out, seeing only one other couple backpacking, and other people out on a day hike. It was a beautiful day, as long as you had a mountain between you and the wind.
Would I do it again? Not intentionally, I enjoyed the hike and spending time with my children backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, and I am eternally grateful that Barbara came and picked us up at the pick-up spot.
I think that wise ones were the people who had rented cabins from us at Sundance Cabin Rentals, and were warm in their cabins, sitting by their fire, or snuggled in their beds. Give us a call next year, and come stay with us and make your own adventure in the Blue Ridge Mountains of north GA!