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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:
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: