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[at-l] Nat'l Trail Days - Silar Bald

We just got back from spending the weekend helping with the renovation of the 
Silar's Bald shelter in the Smokies - what a fun (and tiring ) weekend it 
was. It was a work trip sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Hiking club for 
National Trails Day. We all met bright and early at Sugarlands visitor center 
to pick up lunch, the food we were packing in for the week's work crew and to 
win a raffle prize. Unfortunately, we didn't win a prize. 

We drove to Clingman's and then hiked south to Silars Bald. It was a clear 
day and we could see for miles. I never truly believed there were all those 
mountains out there - I sure hadn't seen them on previous hikes.There were 
probably 60 people on the trail from Clingman's to Silars Bald putting in new 
water bars, trimming brush and other maintenance. Another dozen+ were helping 
to remodel the shelter itself to resemble the Icewater springs shelter. They 
are not going to be able to remove the chain link fence at this point due to 
a pending law suit against the park. 

When we arrived early afternoon yesterday, they already had the roof all torn 
off and had started framing in the new roofline.  The rest of us started 
moving dirt - making new drainage ditches, filling in the area under the new 
porch and otherwise doing general landscaping. Buckets and buckets of dirt 
and mud. A long, fun, muddy day was had by all - topped off with a hot dog 
feast for those of us who spent the rainy night at the site.

After the pouring rain stopped, the morning dawned clear and bright with not 
a cloud in the sky. We moved more dirt (more buckets of muddy dirt), further 
defined the AT and built up the dirt on the footpath. I now have my "own" 
section of trail and it is perfect - flat, straight and no rocks. (okay, it 
is only about 15 feet, but what do you want? 2168 miles of flat and 
straight?)  By the time we left, they had a good portion of the roof covered 
and were quickly moving towards getting the remainder covered. It's going to 
be very nice when they finish it. I can't wait to go back and spend a night. 

We stopped for lunch at Double Springs and noticed it was starting to get 
overcast. That should have been the warning right there - we were in for a 
wet, cold , windy hike out to Clingman's dome.  It started to pour shortly 
after, then the fog moved in and wind picked up.  And it rained, and it blew, 
and it rained, and it blew. At one point the winds were so strong we had to 
lean into them to make headway. If they had suddenly stopped, we would have 
fallen flat on our faces. (hint to fellow hikers, ponchos are maybe not the 
best rain gear in weather like that, although it was great for laughs) . It 
was fun to see all the new water bars working and shunting the rain as 
designed although some sections were still pretty muddy from the storms 
earlier that weekend. It was a cold, wet, very muddy hike out, but the views 
of the fog made me feel right at home. When we reached the parking lot, the 
wiind was howling so much, you had to shout to be heard 5 feet away. We just 
threw everything in the vehicle and headed down the mountain. At Newfound 
Gap, the temperature had risen and the wind had fallen significantly. You 
could even see blue skies!  

So, we got cleaned up a little there, stopped for a pizza in Cherokee and 
headed home. Wet, cold, tired, happy and feeling like we had made a 
difference this weekend. It was a wonderful weekend.

Muddy Fog POG

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