Wednesday, January 2, 2008
I awoke after a remarkably warm night to a temperature of 12 degrees, a colder reality than I thought my homemade quilt could have handled. My tarp and bivy had kept me dry and reasonably shielded from the wind over a very cold night of flurries.
Unfortunately, my ankle screamed at me when I put weight on it. I lay back down and proceeded to massage it and stretch it. I then found that with care, I could walk on it, with a bit of help from my trekking poles. As I cooked breakfast I considered my options.
The JMT continued another 21 miles and predicitons were that tonight would be colder than last night. I might manage it with ibuprofen and an ace bandage, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to, both due to my ankle's discomfort and the prospect of a colder day of hiking than yesterday. I couldn't really stop and rest during the day without breaking out all my cold weather gear. I had done nearly 15 miles the previous day (of a planned 10.5 miler), and had only stopped with a pack off 3 times, never for more than 15 minutes. I didn't care for another day like this when temps were supposed to be 10 degrees colder.
My fiancee was spending two nights at Charit Creek Lodge, a Christmas to herself while I was of backpacking. A look at my map showed Charit Creek Lodge to be only four miles away down an old road bed. I might not be allowed to stay with her since I didn't have a reservation, but I could at least visit, warm up, and move on to camp a mile beyond. I decided to give this a try. Thus, I packed up and headed over the bridge across Station Camp Creek.
My ankle was tender and it felt like someone shoved a pair of pliers under the skin, clamped down on muscle, and twisted every time I polled the ankle on hidden rocks. But as the ankle warmed up, ibuprofen kicked in, and the harsh trail turned to gravelled roadbed, I became more comfortable, with only a mild limp as I walked. The frozen mud kept collecting on my trekking poles.
A real Tennessee mudcicle......
After several stream crossings in which I managed to just keep the water below the goretex liner, I managed to reach Charit Creek Lodge.
I was pleased to find Leslie was the only guest there, and the host had already assured her I could stay with no problem. We even had our own cabin.......
complete with double sized bunk and stove...
and a couple of extra bunk warmers, Sissy and Owen......
In exchange for helping move some propane bottles, wheelbarrow some firewood, and starting a fire in the dining hall's stove, Chris (the caretaker) even hooked me up with a share of the lodge's dinner of steak and fried potatoes. After a tough first day, I was finding a bit of heaven in a very cold place. Night-time temperatures dropped down into single digits that night, and I stayed warm and happy in the 50's in our cabin.