First Backpacking of 2019- closed roads & government shutdown

8:37 a.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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Hi Friends, I hope all is well and heading in the right direction for you in this new year!

I wonder if others hike when sick? I figured I could be sick at home or sick on the mountain so what the hell. :)  And it wasn't a bad thing for my wife and mother-in-law to remove my germs from the house for a few days anyway. 

So Friday January 4th I rushed to Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to get parked and hiking before they closed the road ahead of the incoming winter storm. Even though the government was shutdown, US-441 through the park was being handled by other funds and they have a quick trigger on the gate when snow and ice are forecast. 

Clingmans Dome road parallels the Appalachian Trail for 7.5 miles along the Smokies crest and is always closed during the winter months. It offers better views than the Appalachian Trail so I struck out on the closed road towards MT Collins in the rain at as a quick a pace as I could muster while feeling crappy. 

Overnight the rain turned to snow as the storm intensified and I awoke to a beautiful white blanket on the forest. 

Here is a view from a hole in the canopy as I started day 2 of the trip on the Appalachian Trail:

Soon, however, I found a likely spot to bushwhack back over to the closed road and burst through the trees into the open (mine were the first tracks in the fresh snow):

Despite being sick it was good to be there :

Here are some of the views that you can pretty much only enjoy when the road is closed:




It's always neat to be alone in the places that are usually crawling with tourists. Here is the parking lot for the observation tower at roads end (the buildings are water-less privies):

Despite the biting wind and single digit temps, I could not pass up the chance to climb the observation tower and have it all to myself. This tower sits atop the second highest peak in the Eastern United States:





I ambled along the Appalachian Trail for several hours but grew weary of the dark forested tunnel and it occurred to me that was a great opportunity to check out Andrews Bald which has a southern exposure and may have melted out some dry spots by then. And, that was another place I usually avoid due to crowds. With US-441 closed, Clingmans Dome Road closed, and the government shutdown, the stars were aligned.

Sure enough, I had another pretty place all to myself:




The last day of the trip was pretty too and healing to the soul if nothing else:

My last interesting picture is the hiker tunnel that runs under Clingmans Dome Road; I stopped to see it on the way out:


Happy Trails!

9:03 a.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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The rewards of winter.  Hope you are feeling better. 

10:04 a.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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Having a place all to yourself that is typically hustling and bustling...what a rare treat! 

Out of curiosity, did you change anything about your gear and/or hiking/camping style due to your illness? I imagine a slower pace, maybe?  

10:23 a.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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Hey thanks ppine, all good now.


yeah for sure, I went slower and didn't go as far as I would have normally. I brought extra food in case I got worse and needed to hunker down. I also brought tissue which I don't normally bring...was pretty snotty...

also, that ridge has cell signal at various spots that I've previously mapped and if I needed to hunker down I could send an e-mail to work, etc...having that ability was part of my criteria for picking a destination for "sick hiking" lol

10:35 a.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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Nice Patrick! I have soldiered through colds in the hills but tend to cancel weekend trips if running a decent fever. That usually signifies I won't have energy for the climbs. Longer trips with more travel and planning I try not to cancel, and assume it will run its course before too long. Once I got a bad rash being exposed to too much sun on a two week trip while on a course of antibiotics...lesson learned to read the common side effects carefully. 

I had a two night trip planned last weekend for my first of the year snow trip but had to cancel with the wrist still not being up to par. Hoping to go next weekend. Still can't take too much pressure and wake up with the hand being useless and numb for the first hour. Could impede my breakfasts prep a bit! 

10:44 a.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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hey Phil, thanks for checking in. I was wondering where your rehabilitation was at. If we get the chance, I'd be glad to "be your hands" for a trip. Well, for food prep and such anyway. I'm afraid some tasks you'd just have to figure out how to do one-handed. :)

12:24 p.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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4:35 p.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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Looks like a great trip, Pat! Happy 2019!

6:44 p.m. on January 18, 2019 (EST)
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You're a beast, Patrick!

Very pretty, I can hear the quietness in the images.

I am a big baby when sick, so I stay in bed!  Once I got a fever cold several days from the car.  I felt like I was going to die!  The hike out was an awful experience for me, only slightly better than hiking a heavy pack up a steep hill while drunk.  Don't ask why I know this...


12:15 a.m. on January 19, 2019 (EST)
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Now that's a fine offer know I'm always up for a slice of turkey bacon but you don't want to get within 10 yards of me before I brew my coffee...ill figure out how to do that one handed for a few months! And we are on the same page, or sheet I guess, on the limits of the offered assistance! 

11:46 a.m. on January 26, 2019 (EST)
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Awesome photos and looks like it turned out to be a great hike! : )

11:48 a.m. on January 26, 2019 (EST)
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Take it from a nurse, it's not the best idea to let a fever "run its course" while hiking because it's true, your energy level will be compromised. : )

8:48 a.m. on January 29, 2019 (EST)
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Thanks Jeanine!

Point taken; I'm quite guilty of not acting on the best ideas pretty often. :)

10:22 a.m. on January 29, 2019 (EST)
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Jeanine. While, as I mentioned above, I don't hike with a fever due to what you suggest...lack of energy, I would be interested if it is dangerous (assuming it's related to a simple virus and no other symptoms beyond congestion etc) to hike with a mild fever that hasn't been getting worse. Could it cause something more complicated or if you do a short easy hike and take it down a notch would the fresh air and healthy living be OK? Obviously a waiver should go in here to consult with a medical professional for your exact symptoms before doing anything like that but I would be interested in opinions on that with no liability. 

10:28 a.m. on January 29, 2019 (EST)
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Patrick. I thought about this trip report last weekend as I used the Crest trail as part of my figure 8 in the VA highlands. I usually stay off it due to use and horses but when it's covered in snow and ice it's pretty much closed to traffic regardless of shutdowns...

12:50 p.m. on February 12, 2019 (EST)
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Yes, Phil to the waiver. Circumstances can vary, but fever usually indicates infection or the start of something else. Fresh air may feel good, but won't cure a fever or whatever you may have coming on that you don't have full-blown symptoms for...yet.  Caution is always warranted because if symptoms escalate in the wild, you need medical attention, so my advice is if its low-grade and you have to be out, don't go far from your car just in case.  I feel ya, we don't like to be kept from our love of hiking, do we?  : )  Just use good judgment.

May 20, 2019
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