01 December 2013

How cold is too cold to hike?

Seems the answer for me is ...... NEVER! With a forecast high of a mere 20 degrees, why ever would I not jump at the chance to finally make it up to Gregory Bald in GSMNP? 

After a leisurely ride (i.e. it took more than ONE HOUR to get from the Townsend Y to Parsons Branch Road thru Cades Cove- have these people never seen a deer before?!) we finally  arrived at the trail head of Gregory Ridge at noon. The temperature gauge on the E showed a relatively balmy 24 degrees, so it was not a difficult decision to decide to wear many layers to start. I always struggle with finding a good balance to begin. Knowing the trail is lot of up-up-up (followed by yet more up!) I elected to begin with my favorite mid weight Smartwool stuff. Even that proved to be a little much & had to make a couple of stops to adjust. Gave me a good chance to catch a few good photo opps though. The hoarfrost was supercool....

After a few miles of climbing, we reached the intersection with Gregory Bald Trail & met a couple of backpackers on their way to the campsite on Gregory Bald. Although it is now 2 miles away, the Appalachian Trail used to cross Gregory Bald before eventually being rerouted & a shelter used to be located fairly near this intersection.Since Brian is so familiar with the area, he took us to the piped spring & the site of the former shelter, which is now primarily used as a campsite by NPS contract boar hunters. (Note: If you are staying at Campsite 13 this spring is much better than the one you will find there!)

We trekked a little further up to the bald & the  weather changed dramatically along the way. Despite the sunshine, the wind was wicked & the temperature dropped quickly.
Time for the down mittens & monkey fur hats!

Regardless, the cool, crisp air was great for views...

We did not linger too long up high due to the wind, but found a sheltered spot to grab a bit of lunch before heading back down. I was somewhat surprised that my Gatorade was more ice than liquid despite the high sodium content. Gatorade slushy anyone?

Knowing it would be a bit cooler heading back down, I donned my down mittens & settled into a good pace down. I felt it was still not quite cold enough for the down jacket as long as I had my windstopper fleece & that proved about right. There was still a surprising amount of snow on the ground.

We made it back down in good time & headed back out to battle the traffic on the Cove. A great hike & I cannot wait to go back & tackle the mountain from the other direction!

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