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[at-l] Belated Trip Report

        The week before Christmas, my hiking partner and I took our annual
holiday drive up to North Carolina for the mandatory weekend on Standing
Indian Mountain.  It is the only trip we take where the aim is to stay
rather than hike.  With unerring planning, the departure day proved to be
the start of the coldest weather yet this winter.  We left Melbourne, FL on
Thursday, Dec. 19th in 70 degree weather.  When we made the traditional
stop at the I-85 REI store in Atlana 8 hrs later, the temperature was 26
degrees.  After playing with and buying a little gear for two hours we
continued north and spent the evening in motel comnfort in Clayton, GA.
Morning brought a temperature of 8 degrees.  We dressed for the trail,
grabbed some coffee and headed north.  Although there was little or no snow
in Franklin, there was quite a bit of snow and ice on the USFS road leading
to Deep Gap.  With our Florida tires and driving skills we decided to pass
on the quick access.  We drove to the backcountry information area near
Standing Indian Campground and decided to take the Kimsey Creek Trail to
Deep Gap.
        There were 2-4 inches of snow and a lot of ice.  In fact we had not
gone half a mile when I blithely stepped onto some ice and fell hard on my
rear end.  It still hurts.  I was real careful after that.  The 3.7 miles
to Deep Gap were like walking through a winter wonderland.  The spray from
the creek had frozen in many ways, all artistic.  The snow was a treat to a
couple of tropics types.  The hiking temps were perfect for me.  I kept
lightweight capilene long underwear on beneath goretex pants and jacket.  I
was a little warm up top but with single digit temperatures it seemed wise
to keep the jacket on, though unzipped.  There were some hunter's tracks in
front of us (could tell from the dog prints) but we never saw anyone.  At
Deep Gap, we picked up the AT and continued up Standing Indian Mountain.
This was truly spiritual.  Other than various animals, mine were the first
tracks in the snow, which increased in depth as we ascended.  Despite all
the animal tracks, we saw no wildlife other than a grouse who startled me
as much as I scared her.  We arrived at the summit about 2:30 on Friday
afternoon after the leisurely walk.  The lookout area on Standing Indian is
always spectacular, but in Winter it has the advantage of being a clear
area that receives full mid-afternoon sun.  So despite the cold
temperature, the weather felt almost balmy.  We set up the tents, communed
with nature for awhile and then prepared dinner.  We knew that the
temperature and wind chill would plummet after 5 pm.  They did.  We were in
the tents by 5:45.  I had my Sierra Designs Flashlight - a great warm
weather tent, not not good for sub-zero weather which happened that night.
I had lugged my son's zero degree bag along.  Unfortunately it is
rectangular rather than mummy design, so I had to pile on the clothes to
saty warm.  The night was spectacular.  Naturally on the coldest night I
have ever spent outside I had to go pee three times!  The moon was full,
the stars were bright, there were no clouds and no fog.  Visibility was
        I was wakened the next morning by the sound of people.  Four
hunters and five of their dogs came charging up the mountain in search of
their other dogs.  I wasn't thrilled to have that many rifles around but
these boys seemed capable enough.  We exchanged pleasantries and after
shaking their heads at the thought of stying on top of the mountain the
previous night, they were off in search of dogs and bears.
        We cooked breakfast, hot chocolate and grits, and began melting
snow for the day.  The spring just off the AT had frozen to a tiny trickle.
Regardless, it was so cold that that the water froze in the tube of the
water filter when we stopped momentarily in attempting to filter from the
spring.  Once frozen, it was just too cold to clear the lines and restart.
So, we melted snow for a long time and boiled it up.  It sure does take a
lot of snow to create a liter of water.
        The bright sun kept us warm through the early afternoon and we did
more communing and reading.  After an early supper, we retired to the tents
for more reading, talking and just being.  Saturday night was marginally
warmer than Friday.  We slept well, rose early and headed down the mountain
Sunday morning.  The trip back to the car was uneventful.  We met two
fellows car camping at Deep Gap and no one else.
        Things that worked well included the foam pad beneath the
lightweight thermarest; the titanium pot (new purchase at REI); covering
the bottom of the sleeping bag with my jacket to keep my feet warmer; the
OR crocodile gaiters.
        New knowledge gained included the futility of trying to filter
water in zero temperatures; the need for a four season tent (or at least
one that keeps out the wind better); the advisability of getting some blaze
orange to wear or put on the pack; I used my old external frame pack and
rediscovered how convenient it is both to have a frame and also to have a
lot of side pockets.

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