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Sunday
Jan032010

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Unfinished business is a term I use when evaluating the success/failure of my backpacking trips.

 Its that feeling like you left it all out there on the line but have nothing to show for it. Knowing you are the only one it matters to because nobody else shared your vision, your expectation, or your experience, makes it harder to accept. Unfinished business can take away your energy and leave you gloomy for some time.


Back in October I went into the Smoky Mountains to scout out some areas where to shoot some video for a project of mine. It was also a good chance to get some last fall camping in before winter season. I was staying at a site where you have to reserve a spot in advance, so even though the forecast called for rain on that Saturday I was totally committed to doing it anyway. Besides, the storm was moving quickly to the east and I figured it would be over with around noon. Instead it rained the entire day. Then it lightened up enough for awhile to where I could set up my tent/tarp and my neighbor Steve was able to get a fire going. Before we could really get the fire stoking hard rain started coming down heavy again and the fire was abandoned and I crawled into the tent to wait it out. And what a long wait, I didn't leave the tent again until nine the next morning when it did finally stop raining. I had spent a cold night, miscalculating the temperature I had left my mid-layer at home and was using my 45 degree (7 celsius) bag on a night the lows hit about 34 (1.1 c), so I had to sleep wearing my rain gear which wasn't enough. That morning the sun did eventually come out, but it was Sunday and I had to go home. At least I got all my gear dried out before I left. This bit of unfinished business will now have to be taken care of in the spring.

In December a snow storm was whipping up on North Carolina and East Tennessee on a Friday night. Even with news reports everywhere warning of severe weather and road conditions, I made plans to go to the Joyce Kilmer wilderness to camp out right in the middle of the storm. The idea was to go up the Haoe lead trail and get to the hangover so I could see and feel the snow storm go by. It would be that epic moment; being the only one observing the storm from this mountain, from this perspective. Knowing I was alone up there experiencing nature from the inside, and seeing how powerful it can be, and really feeling it so much deeper and personal than anyone could imagine was to be my sublime reward.

 The snow was coming down hard from the moment I hit the trail. The wind was blowing good too. There were a lot of trees down across the trail, and even more bent over it from the weight of snow and ice. The trail winds around the mountain before it picks up the lead ridge and it was tough to follow. For a small bit I followed some foot prints left by a hunter and his dogs. I Never was quite sure what they were doing out there, but their trail soon veered off back down the mountain. Then I started to wonder why I was out there.

  The higher in elevation I got the darker it got, the deeper the snow got, the colder the wind felt, and the harder the trail was to find. Even though I was following the lead ridge pretty much in a straight westerly direction it was becoming difficult to navigate through the storm. Around four thousand six hundred feet of elevation things changed rapidly. The trail was buried, so there was no way to tell where it was except if a tree that had been cut with a chainsaw after some previous storm was up high enough out of the snow to be seen. The sound of trees falling and branches cracking off and smashing to the ground was all around. I became very uncomfortable because the storm and the wind seemed to be silent, and what I thought I heard was the sound of the ice as it choked and froze the trees around me. On closer observation I noticed the branches and trunks of all the trees were totally coated in ice like popsicles. I moved higher on up the mountain staying on a westerly course. At some point I looked at my watch and noticed I had barely made any headway in the last hour and a half. It was now four o'clock with sunset expected around five forty-five and I knew I'd never reach the top before then. Crashing trees and branches, whose thrashes and thuds made a continuous chorus were making me think twice about trying to set up my tent or back-up tarp anywhere except at the top of the mountain. I was gripped by a sort of paralyzing force at work inside me, one part fighting to go on, and another part trying to pull me back down the mountain. Being heavily conflicted mentally, and facing more and more physical obstacles on the trail upwards I finally turned and headed down the mountain. Defeated, I slammed the door of my car, turned on the headlights, kind of slid the car down the icy road for the first six or so miles until it cleared up, then sped all the way home thinking of the frozen landscape where I'd just left a part of myself. 

 

 

See more photos of this trip in the galleries.

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References (2)

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  • Response
    Migraine is een ernstige vorm van hoofdpijn. Het treedt in aanvallen op en gaat vaak gepaard met visuele stoornissen en misselijkheid.
  • Response
    Hike Above The Clouds - Blog - UNFINISHED BUSINESS

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