Woke up to about 2 inches of snow on the ground. The wind was howling all last night and caused some drifting too. There was a drift against the door of my tent about a third of the way up. It was a pretty cold night, but I slept alright considering. The temp in my tent at one point showed 20 degrees, which I'm guessing would have made the temp outside 15, maybe lower. Getting my tent packed up without gloves was the hardest part of the morning. Tarzan had some trouble getting out food bags down out of the tree because the rope had frozen to the tree limb. When I put my pack on, I heard sort of a crunching, cracking noise. I had heard a few other hikers who've had the same pack as me say that they cracked the plastic frame sheet. I told Tarzan about the noise and hoped that wasn't it. Sure enough, when I just laid down in my tent, I checked out the sheet and it's got a crack toward the bottom about an inch long or so. Must have been the frigid temps. Gotta figure out what to do. Could get a replacement frames sheet, or maybe go with the Granite Gear Crown that is lighter and uses a different frame type that won't crash.
Once we started hiking, I started warming up. I've winter hiked and camped before, but it's a different story when you plan to go out onto winter conditions with coats, snow pants, gloves, etc., compared being in the middle of it on the AT. Can't carry all the cold weather clothes with, so today I was wearing just about everything I had. Short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, Montbell synthetic jacket, raincoat, pants, socks, shoes, and a pair of socks on my hands. As we hiked up, we were out of the trees and getting hit with what another hiker thought was about 50 mph winds. The wind chill was nasty! Snow was pelting me in the face as the wind blew it across the trail. Then it would switch directions and blow right at us. Not far into our hike we met Chance, a Triple Crowner (meaning he's hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail). Luckily he was in front of us, because had I turned the corner and came across the wild pony first, I'm not sure what I would have done. It was all mange looking, tiny, snowed on, looked cold and lost, but was friendly and came right up to each of us. Grayson Highlands State Park was coming up soon and there are supposed to be a bunch of wild ponies and horses there. We didn't see any though. I think the nasty wind and snow had something to do with it. It was a bummer because I bet the areas we hiked up across had some great views up at 5,000+ ft. Felt like we were on another planet with the sudden winter weather.
We kept pushing on from one shelter to another, to another where another hiker had come from the road below and said there were people at the road with a tarp set up and a fire. My head went straight to thinking trail magic. We headed down and sure enough, there it was! Chili, lasagna, beer, hot cocoa, strawberries, bananas, donettes, cinnamon swirls, crackers, etc! Amazing! I had some hot cocoa, lasagna, strawberries, a banana, and some donettes, and sat by the fire. The temp had warmed a little as we descended, but all that extra warmth from the food was greatly appreciated. We hiked on and finally made it to a spot about 6 miles or so past the trail magic.
Knocked out 19 miles today. Somewhere during the course of the day, we hit the 500th mile we've hiked! Now that's a milestone! Feels great after knocking out 18-19 yesterday too! We will see how my body feels in the morning. I'm expecting to be a little sore just like every morning, but it usually goes away fairly quickly. A little windy and temp in my tent is currently reading about 35. Should be better than last night.
Tarzan and I are going to experiment with having one day less of food than we currently are planning for each resupply, sent to us so that we will have lighter packs. The theory would be that lighter packs mean we hike longer and possibly faster, which reduces our days between resupplies, come into town with less or no uneaten food, and also causes us to finish sooner. We will see.