Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hiking in winter

Everything I owned froze solid...

We chose to hike in winter.

We knew ahead of time that things were not always gonna be super easy.  On a long hike, there is always something going wrong: a blister, a wet boot, running out of chocolate . . . it's part of the experience.  When you hike in winter, all those other considerations take a back seat in your mind, and the driving question is, "How is the weather and am I going to freeze to death today?"

We have seen snow in every state, though we got through Georgia and Tennessee without much accumulation.  In Alabama, we had only one snow day, but it was dramatic and dangerous.  In Kentucky, we dealt with snow constantly, but were better prepared for the weather, both in terms of gear and mental preparation.

Hiking in winter can be incredibly rewarding.  The views go on forever.  Although the greens of spring and summer and the fall foliage create wonderful scenic views, the winter and its absence of colors expose itself in a different light.  We haven't had a single mosquito bite or had any problem finding water sources.  We have only been uncomfortably hot a handful of times; you can always add layers on, but you can only take so much off.  We also get a chance to wear our stylish blaze-orange toboggans.  And there's no one else dumb enough to be out there on the trails, so we are isolated and alone.  Also, people feel sorrier for Bart when they see his beard is frosted and are quicker to lend a hand. ;)
We'll miss this someday.

We would definitely not recommend that the next thru-hikers of the Great Eastern Trail begin in January when we did.  Weather has definitely slowed us down: hiking through snow with a 30-pound pack makes a 2MPH pace very difficult and often impossible.  Longer days with fewer miles are taxing on our bodies and our sanity.  However, while we can't recommend beginning in January, we are very happy that we did so.  We are over 700 miles into the hike, with spring (theoretically) around the corner.  We are looking forward to spring wildflowers in West Virginia, the return of colors to a dramatically white world, longer days, more miles, easier hiking, and getting to sleep without wearing every single layer we own. What will that even be like?  I hardly remember what hiking is like when it's not freezing.

It's been a wonderful winter hike with lots of character-building and help from newfound friends.  We feel much richer for these friendships and the experiences we've had have been more meaningful due to often inclement weather.

Tomorrow we walk into West Virginia, our 5th of 9 states.  The halfway mark is just down the trail.  Many more adventures await us, and hopefully some sunshine.


  1. This thing is in season right now, and I am really a fan of winter hiking because it brings you into a different realm. However, every backpacker should be aware that the beauty of winter hiking comes with a more pronounced precaution. I found a very helpful article worth checking for additional tips on your next hiking adventure: http://backpackingmastery.com/basics/winter-backpacking.html

  2. Nothing beats the experience of going hiking and camping in winter. I love trekking on the snow and enjoying the pristine white landscape. The stillness always gets me and inspires me to capture every moment using my camera. That being said, all hikers must be properly geared from head to toe. I go for down or fleece jackets. They are comfortable and keeps me warm all throughout my hike. For the best hiking clothes and for great reviews, this site has it: http://myoutdoorslife.com/gear/camping-and-hiking/the-best-hiking-clothes.html

  3. I love winter hiking as it really makes you feel alive, doesn't it? :) But, you have to know how to dress up and the best way is layering. Here is an article that talks about what to wear for winter hikes, you will find it quite usefull believe me :) You can check it out here: http://hikingmastery.com/basics/best-attires-for-your-hiking-tour.html

  4. My family loves to go camping in any season, especially in winter.We often go somewhere near our town and we make sure the kids are safe but enjoying themselves. Keeping warm is paramount so we make sure we layer our clothes and have the right gear to protect us. That means investing in the proper equipment from trusted manufacturers and reading more about hiking safety. Here's a great site that provides a tremendous amount of information that you'll find useful: http://backpackingmastery.com/skills/tips-for-hiking-in-the-winter.html

  5. Winter is great time to get out and take a hike in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Warmish days and absence of snow and ice make for a great outdoor experience http://archeryhunting.yolasite.com

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