There are a lot of things I thought would be challenging on this journey. Steep climbs, having enough food, finding water, blisters, falling down the mountain, bears, snakes and deer ticks were on the list.
I didn’t expect to be scared though, and frankly I have been scared quite a bit. Since we started 14 days ago, there have been predictions of rain followed by very cold temps – in the mid-20s – for many nights. It has been worrying us as we plan our mileage and where we could catch a shuttle to stay in a hostel if the weather turned bad. That assumes there is vacancy, too. One night when we caught a night in a hostel several people were having trouble finding a place to stay and had to camp in the cold windy rain storm.
So far we have done alright. We made it through some pretty cold nights, like 29° with howling wind. We were in a hostel the night of the first bad cold thunderstorm and weathered it out in our tents on the next thunderstorm which had warmer temps. Unfortunately Bluejay (Karen) had over 2 inches of water in the corner of her tent after that storm. My tent was dry inside and very muddy on the outside from the splash of hard rain. It wasn’t cold so we were fine.
By the way, a warm day is when we don’t have on gloves to break down our tents or start hiking. Today was the first day I didn’t have my winter coat on when I left my tent. It’s often 50 to 60° later in the day hiking so that’s perfect hiking weather. It’s just when it goes down to the low 30s at night that it’s kind of miserable getting going in the morning.
So we check the weather with a special AT app whenever we have service and plan for how to get off the trail into a real shelter, like a hostel or hotel, if it’s going to be freezing rain or worse.
It was predicting rain all night tomorrow night turning to snow in the middle of the night and waking up about 25°. We are very scared of becoming soaked through our rain gear and tents and then having it turn very cold. I realized a couple of days ago that I was not focusing on the present moment, because I was worried too hard about the future. Just like life off the trail, when you focus on what might happen to you, you forget to enjoy what is actually happening to you.
On the other hand, we can’t ignore the possibility that we could be in real trouble if we didn’t plan well. So there is that fine line of planning for the future while enjoying the present that I’ve been running into my entire life. I decided I was going to quit fearing the future and just hike the hike I was on that day. Each night we check the weather and make a contingency plan. Then we camp and enjoy the next day. It’s worked for two days so far and as luck would have it the bad weather predicted for tomorrow night has pushed off.
Here’s the catch: just when I thought my new plan was going to work, we hear there’s a blizzard predicted for Saturday and Sunday in the Smoky Mountains. There aren’t any places to get off the trail two days into the Smoky Mountains, which is where we will be if we stay on our course. We are certainly not prepared to camp in a blizzard.
So I have had to renew my resolve to enjoy the day and not fear the future. It is a beautiful day down at Nantahalla Outdoor Center where I am writing this blog waiting for their restaurant open at 11 so I can eat a big meal before we hike 8 miles with a 3300′ elevation gain. It’s supposed to be so nice today, and I will put on sunscreen when I switch to shorts and T-shirt.
Cross your fingers that it does not blizzard on us, like it did for thru hikers in the Smokies three weeks ago. They were holed in camp shelters and visitor center restrooms as the roads closed and there was no way to get out for a day. I hope the hardest part turns out to be focusing on a great day and not making it through a terrible night. We will find out soon enough.
Passed 100 mile mark three days ago. WooHoo!