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Well, after this weekend I'm feeling a lot more confident in my
gear and in my abilities to cope with cold weather come March 18th.

This weekend, my dog Micah and I went up to Roanoke and hiked
the AT south from Troutville to Hwy 311.  Woodelf was kind
enough to put us up Friday night and shuttle us to the trail
Saturday morning.  I don't know that I would have attempted this
trip alone if it hadn't been for Woodelf's and Chase's reassurances that
I would be able to handle it as long as I was smart about things.
Woodelf let me have some extra fuel before I left and offered
several options and easy outs for me should I decide that we couldn't
handle the full 23 mile trip.

This section of the trail covers Hay Lookout, Tinker Cliffs, and
McAfee's Knob.  Saturday temps were in the low 20s during
the day with a good stiff wind.  There was about 4-5" of snow
on the trail with a really thick layer of ice on top.  Our
footprints were the only recent tracks heading up to the Lambert's
Meadow Shelter.  The skies were a beautiful dark blue and the
valleys and mountainsides were covered in snow.

By the time we retired to the tent for the night, my thermometer
was showing 12 degrees. I had brought along a Sony Walkman and a
cell phone as extra insurance.  They're not part of my normal gear,
but I felt that a solo trip on such a cold weekend with so few people
on the trail merited a few concessions to modern technology.  I heard
on the radio that the wind chill that night was down to -20.

I had brought an extra down bag for Micah and I zipped our two bags
together and we snuggled in deep.  Within about 30 minutes we
were toasty warm.

Morning temps on Sunday were 5 degrees.  We had some deer pass through
our camp as I was heating up some water for breakfast.  As soon
as they passed by, I could hear dogs on the other side of the
ridge.  I assumed where there were deer and dogs that there
would also be hunters, so I yelled a couple of hellos just
in case anybody got confused in their excitement at seeing movement
down by my campsite.

The trail conditions as we climbed up Tinker Cliffs were
pretty bad.  Poor Micah--at some points he'd make about 5'
worth of progress and slip back down 2-3'.  When I would
stop to catch my breath on the uphills, Micah would come
back down the trail very gingerly and then slide up against
me so that my legs acted as a block to keep him from sliding
around.  I had to do some very technical butt slides on portions
of the trail and Micah seemed pretty amused at my technique on these

We saw several more deer, lots of woodpeckers, and startled
a flock of 12-15 wild turkeys as we continued our hike.
The view from the cliffs was breathtaking, but you had
to make sure to stay far away from the edges.  There were
several parts of the trail that just got too close to
the icy edges for comfort, so Micah and I would detour a ways
into the woods.

We stopped for a late lunch at Campbell Shelter, just
.5 miles north of McAfee's Knob.  I had to get pretty
creative about warming up my water filter and transporting
it to the spring before it froze back up, but we managed.
Two young guys came by as Micah and I were eating.  They
were dayhiking and trying to do a 28 mile loop in one day!
I was very impressed, especially considering how poor the
trail conditions were.

It was a great trip and I'm really glad I got to test
out my gear so thoroughly.  I hope and pray that it won't
get that cold on the AT in March.  The extra sleeping bag
was a great comfort this weekend, but I don't see it making
it into my pack on Springer.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons during my trip:
--  water bottles will freeze shut very quickly
--  water filters and the attachment hoses will freeze up even quicker
--  lighters don't like to work when it's that cold
--  and NEVER, EVER put anything metal in your mouth when
    it's that cold!  (O.K., in my defense since this last "lesson"
    makes me sound pretty darn stupid--I had been mixing up a cup
    of hot chocolate and laid my spoon down for less than a minute.
    Well, I have a nice little spot on my tongue now with no skin!
    It could happen to anyone--right???  :-)  )

56 DAYS TO GO!!!

'Solophile'  GA-->ME  '97
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