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Yesterday I was at Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina and got turned back by snow (plentiful and often over a foot deep above 5,000 feet).
I was on a blazed trail but got to the point where it was impossible to discern the impression of a trail. Tried following other people's tracks to no effect.
Got off the trail for a few hundred feet, then noticed a red tag hanging from a tree, figured it had to be a trail marker, went that way, found two blazes marking a bend in the trail, but it vanished within 100 feet in either direction.
It was beautiful, cloudless, warm day. I had a map, compass, GPS with fresh batteries and about 700 feet of remaining ascent to the summit over about a mile of trail. Certainly could've gutted it out the rest of the way; instead I turned back because:
a) Didn't feel feel like fighting the mountain all the way up -- postholing and scraping around to find a trail.
b) My feet were soaked, which told me I wasn't wearing the right footwear for such an outing.
c) Another hiker came along and neither of us could find the trail.
d) The more spurious tracks I was leaving, the more I was apt to get somebody else lost.
e) All the flailing around looking for a the trail left a tangled mess of a track on my GPS unit -- dramatically reducing the effectiveness of the "trackback" feature, which is so good at getting you found after you're lost.
f) Hiking is recreation to me; when it stops feeling like recreation and starts feeling like work, I figure I might as well move on to something more fun.
Or, as the guy I met on the trail said, "sometimes the mountain wins."