Hogback Ridge Shelter-Sam’s Gap. 318.2 done/1871.6 to go. April 7, 2017. 

BIG MISTAKE! I should have respected the forecast more and also factor in that Mother Nature can be less predictable in the mountains. 

I should have accepted the offer of trail magic from Doug and Deb. Or I should have stopped at the hostel when I had a chance. 

Like I told you yesterday I was in my sleeping bag by 6:00. At about 6:30 another hiker showed up in a very frozen state. The storm had already started. He didn’t say anything when he saw all five of us were already in our sleeping bags. He just walked away and proceeded to set up his tent. When he got done he came back to the shelter to cook some supper. Now he was chilled to the bone. I told him there was still room for one more in the shelter. He accepted the invitation. His name is Dead Man Ale. That’s the kind of beer he likes.  He is my age, retired from the U.S. Justice Department. 

At around 8:00pm the storm really unleashed. The wind was in the 50-60 mph range. We could here trees falling in the forest. Some of them were big enough it sounded like the crack of thunder. Fortunately at all the shelter sites volunteers keep all the vulnerable trees cleared. We should be safe from that. 

The problem was that the tarps that were hung to kind of enclose the exposed side of the shelter didn’t help much. 


The wind was blowing straight into the open side of the shelter. So in comes the snow. In addition on the back side of the shelter there is about an inch gap between the roof and the back wall. It is not air tight and normally keeps moisture out. But the wind whipped over the top and back into that gap so you could feel this constant light snow on your face. 

So our sleeping bags are getting wet from both sides as we lay in them. At around midnight I had to go to the bathroom. This is a process when the weather is like this because you have to get completely dressed every time you get up. I find my shoes on the ground in front of the platform we are sleeping on. They are full of snow and frozen. So is everyone else’s in the shelter. I put mine on anyway. As I went out I see the guy that went out before me, Rayden went out barefoot in the snow. I see his footprints. My family will appreciate that. 

As the night went on my bag got more wet and I got colder. It was a very sleepless night. The wind and snow kept blowing. I started having negative thoughts. Hypothermia was starting to enter my mind. Six men stranded in a storm in the backwoods of Appalachia. 

Now it’s 5:30am. I’m the first one up. My shoes were wet when I finished hiking and are now frozen. My socks are wet. I have a dry pair, but they won’t do any good hiking in wet shoes and five inches of snow. My sleeping bag is wet. My rain jacket that was hanging in the shelter is frozen with ice all over it. My clothes I pulled into my sleeping bag are damp. 

Seabiscuit is the next one to wake up. He suggests that we hike to Sam’s Gap 2.4 miles away and call for a shuttle. Immediately John Boat who’s next to him says that’s what he wants to do. We really didn’t have a choice. Our bags are wet and it’s not going to warm up enough to dry them out. In fact it’s supposed to be in the twenties tonight too, even though the snow is supposed to stop. 

Then when Dead Man Ale and Engineer woke up they instantly said they were going to town. None of us planned to go to town. All of us agreed we shouldn’t hike out alone. 

The only hold out was Rayden. He said he was going to hike on. Engineer tried talking him out of it. He stayed in his sleeping bag and said he was going on. 

So John Boat called the shuttle service. It was going to be $8 per person, but we had to be there by 10:15 or he was going to leave us. He was super busy because all the other hikers in the mountains were using his service. All the hikers in this area were going to town. It sounds like the storm was worse on Bald Mountain, our next destination. 

Seabiscuit, John Boat and I left together. Engineer stayed to help Dead Man Ale take down his tent and much to our dismay Rayden was on his own. 

This is John Boat. A retired Optometrist from the Twin Cities. 

The 2.4 mile hike was difficult. A lot of knee deep snow. Also it was fresh snow so it was hard in places to follow the path. 

When we got to Sam’s Gap trailhead there was a couple there providing trail magic. HOT COCOA! We arrived ahead of schedule. A little later Engineer and Dead Man Ale showed up. Five minutes behind Rayden came and after seeing the trail conditions he changed his mind and went to town to. Going on, especially alone would be dangerous. 

So all six of us are at the Super 8 in Erwin Tennessee. It’s a small town of maybe 5000. It is full of hikers today because virtually everyone came of the mountains to town. 

I’m going to Pizza Hut tonight with five of them. Rayden has a friend in the area and is doing something different. 

Four of us are going back to the trail tomorrow at 11:00. That’s the earliest shuttle we could get because they are so busy. I get the impression the shuttle service is liking the foul weather. It’s good for business. Seabiscuit and John Boat are staying two nights. Hopefully I’ll get to see them sometime in the future. 

This is long. If you’ve read this far, thanks. Most posts won’t be this long. Time, cell service, and battery life are always a factor. Not so much today. 

I love all of you. I am blessed. Thank you Amy for allowing me to do this. 

15 thoughts on “Hogback Ridge Shelter-Sam’s Gap. 318.2 done/1871.6 to go. April 7, 2017. 

  1. Yes, you are blessed, Mike. I wonder if Amy is sorry she let you go. I’m sure you weren’t expecting all that snow. We love you, too. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s good to hear that everyone stayed together including Rayden. Wise choice on heading into town. Thank you for taking all of us on this journey with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you are all safe and getting warmed up and dry!
    Good choice to get to town due to Mother Nature having a mind of her own this “Spring”.
    Your post had me on the edge of my seat and each day I look forward to reading your story of the day. Stay safe my friend!!
    Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. Sounds like a very rough night. We had a ton of rain these past couple of days and I have been thinking of you and the weather. Hopefully this will be the last snow you see for a while. Proud of you & love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tough conditions make tough people. Remember this hike is suppose to be fun. Don’t be afraid to let the “schedule” slide if needed. You can always make it up over a couple of days. There is nothing wrong with a warm dry place. Having said all that, go have some fun.

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  6. glad you are safe and hope the super 8 is better than the last motel!! we have great weather here today, I will send it your way. thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nothing more to say except so glad you’re safe, warm & dry now. Thanking God for you having the company of others. I think there’s a movie in the making with these kind of experiences!

    Like

  8. Wow! And I thought my hiking adventure through the mud & muck was ugly! I found Erwin on my map. I’m glad you are all okay! Randy & I are off to Lauren Rieker’s wedding this evening.
    As much trouble as it was giving you, the show covered trail is beautiful!

    Like

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