The result: I think we had a three mile hike out to our site and it basically beat us all senseless. Granted, if we had the proper gear and brought only the essentials we probably would have made light work of the trip. Regardless, it was probably one of the best experiences of my life but the bottom line is that, in my experience, Floridians suck at mountain hikes.
When Andrea and I decided to hike Clingman's Dome (tallest mountain on the Appalachian Trail, the Smoky's, and all of Tennessee), we chose a difficult hike, about 22 miles round trip over three days. We started at the top of Clingman's Dome (elevation 6,684 feet) and hiked down to the bottom, about a 5,000 ft descent, then made our way back up to the summit. Andrea had only hiked one mountain before, Grandfather Mountain in NC, and I had only a handful under my belt. The hike was beyond our experience level, which was a concern of mine from the get-go, but we thought if we took it slow and made sure to eat and drink enough we would be OK.
The first day was an 11 mile hike, all downhill, and we were lucky enough to have crisp, cool, dry weather. As far as physcial exertion goes, it was not too bad, but I ended up getting a trail blisters the size of quarters from my big toe down to my heel on both feet. The last mile-and-a-half or so were excrutiatingly painful for me... worse yet, we had left a little later than planned and wound up hiking for about an hour in total darkness. I had a flashlight and a backup head-lomp, but Andrea had left her backup behind and her primary broke... Things started getting a little scary after dark... The head lamp was nearly useless for hiking, and toward the bottom of the mountain we had to cross several streams in the pitch black night, which was quite tricky at times.
|Yayy for dead trees!|
The second day was a breeze, we had only a four mile hike to the next site. While hiking, the weather was great again. We got to the site at about 5pm, gathered wood, started a nice warm fire, and ate dinner before bed. We had decided to share the one person tent to cut out some weight from our backs (my 2 person tent is pretty heavy and bulky). HUGE MISTAKE! About a half hour after getting into the tent the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees and it started raining. I woke up at about 3am and found myself lying in about 3 inches of cold water... the water had come through where our bodies were touching the sides of the tent! I was wearing all the warm clothes I had brought, which were all made of cotton... Cotton clothes hold about a gazillion times their weight in water and take forever to dry. Luckily, Andrea was wearing a fleece and leggings that wicked repelled and dried quickly.
|This is about the driest I was all day.|
|We made it to the car!|