03 Jan Hiking from Winfield Scott with Dan, Kathy, and Taylor
January 2, 2010 –
8 AM Condition:
Temp at Trackrock: 16 degrees.
Temp at Lake Winfield Scott: Considerably Colder
Winds: Blowing hard, maybe 20 mph gusts
Out of the car, we see a couple of snowflakes. We didn’t expect that. We quickly wrap up with the remainder of our jackets, hats, and gloves, but too late for the quick chill of cold winds whipping across the lake.
It is not too hard to get moving in order to beat off already numb hands and frozen ears. We move over the footbridge and on to the 2.7 mile Slaughter Creek trail with all of the appearance of the procession of an artic expedition.
At first we believe that the few snow flakes are a couple of strays blown in from the stiff gusts, but as we gain elevation we enter into swirling storms of flakes and our boots begin losing traction on the now snow coated leaves. I wonder just a little whether this was the best idea. It looks rough and we are still distant from the exposure of the higher elevations around Blood Mountain.
As we work harder, we occasionally make adjustments to layers, but for the most part we climb without shedding. My hands finally warm. Taylor says that he is warm. I don’t see how. I am layered in upper and lower silk longjohns, hiking pants, rain/wind pants, athletic shirt, tight woven fleece jacket, 850 down fill jacket, windbreaker, mittens, and a fleece hat. The windbreaker hood is pulled over my head. I have a down vest in the pack.
Dan is brave enough to occasionally stop to take photos. No need to worry about him. He can somehow manage the camera without taking off his gloves.
I finally get brave enough to remove mittens in order to snap a photo. Taylor is breaking in a different pair of boots. He is warm enough to unzip his jacket. Not me!
We reach the Appalachian Trail junction much sooner than I expect. I had hiked Slaughter Creek trail several times, but I was thinking that it was a 4 to 5 mile trail and I was also remembering a steeper trail. With memory, it must have grown in difficulty. We follow the AT for about 2.9 miles.
Taylor – The Mountain Man
Taylor is reviewing photo taken with his cell phone.
Another short climb and we enter the frosted white top of Blood Mountain. There is a small crowd here. Though only mid-day, some are already camped out in the shelter with tents and hammock filling out the back room. One of them has just built a fire with leaves and twigs. Right in the middle of the floor of the first room. Smoking leaves fill the room with smoke. Taylor and I enter for a look around and quickly leave. We all wonder why anyone would begin camping this early in the day when it is so miserably cold. There would be nothing to do, but lay in the warm sleeping bag all day. Better to be moving and hiking until day’s end. The winter nights are long enough.
Taylor outside Blood Mountain Shelter – It is warm and smoky inside. Camping? Anyone?
Down the other side we step carefully to avoid patches of ice covered rocks. We reach the Freeman trail and turn toward the south. It is warmer in the wind sheltered sunny side. The cloud covered top gives way to some blue sky. At Flat Rock Gap we begin following the Freeman trail 0.7 miles around Blood Mountain and back to the AT.
We had planned to lunch at the Blood Mountain shelter, but not being fond of smoke our new plan is to dine at Woods Hole shelter. As soon as we reach the AT, we are back to the windy ridge. Temperatures drop and wind chill plummets. I regret not having added layers back before moving off the Freeman trail. We hike the 0.5 miles down the shelter trail. I speed ahead in order to get to the shelter where I can add layers while out of the wind.
We are all cold by the time we reach the shelter. Lunch is fast in these temps. We want to get moving again. We take a nice photo of the group at the shelter dedicated to Roy & Tillie Woods. A plaque commemorates the event and lists Jerry and Minnie Bowden as contributors to the shelter.
Lunch At Woods Hole Shelter
Taylor and I enjoy sun dried tomatoe turkey sandwiches. I eat a hard boiled egg. Dan and Kathy share their brownies. I also eat a blueberry muffin that Maura had baked.
Another half mile back up the Shelter trail, we hike the AT about a mile and a half toward Gaddis Mountain. Winds hammer the ridge, but we finally get relief as we switch toward the leeward side of Gaddis as we begin descending toward Jarrad Gap.
We enjoy a pleasant walk down the gravel road on the return to our car at Winfield Scott. I am thankful that I settled for a day hike over going solo on a Forney Creek/Forney Ridge hike over Andrews Bald and Clingman’s Dome.