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AT: Hot Springs to Spring Mountain Shelter
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Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
AT: Hot Springs to Spring Mountain Shelter on 02/23/2010 08:03:31 MST Print View

Note: The original trip plan was to shuttle from Hot Springs to I-40 and do that section including Max Patch, but due to reports of two feet of snow, we decided to do a there and back on the north side of town, which was a thousand feet lower.

I arrived at the public parking area in Hot Springs a little after 9:00am on Saturday morning and Brad Fisher was already waiting in the parking lot. Trevor arrived a few minutes later and we got our gear together and headed out. We started out the chilly morning hiking north on the Appalachian Trail but we quickly warmed up as the trail begin climbing away from the city through a series of switchbacks. We stopped and talked at a couple of the overlooks along this route and enjoyed the vistas of Hot Springs and the surrounding mountains.

We passed two trail maintainers from the Carolina Mountain Club taking a break after clearing out a few blow downs near Tanyard Gap. Even with the recent snow and high winds, the trail was in remarkably good condition, no doubt due in large part to the efforts of volunteers like the ones we passed. Other than the trail maintainers, we had the trail pretty much to ourselves despite the beautiful day.

As we passed Tanyard Gap and started climbing Rich Mountain we started to encounter quite a bit of snow. By the time we got to the fire tower at the top, we were walking through nearly ten inches of powdery snow. The view from the fire tower was absolutely breathtaking as the sky was cloudless and it seemed as if you could see forever. We stopped and snacked a bit around the fire tower soaking up the views and the sun, and then we headed down to Hurricane Gap. The trail from Hurricane Gap to Spring Mountain mostly consists of a pleasant ridge walk and the leafless trees allowed great views of the surrounding mountains.

Since Tanyard Gap we had been following a set of footprints in the snow, which was surprising to me since I imagine that most of the snow had been up there for almost a week. The hiker ahead of us was staying at the shelter and we preferred to tent anyways so we went up the trail a short ways to a nice snowy flat spot to make camp for the night. Trevor had used his SpinnTwinn before but the other two of us were using our shelters for the first time, Brad Fisher had a Tarptent Moment, and I had a Tarptent Contrail as my SpinnShelter is away getting a slight repair. There was nearly ten inches of snow on the ground and underneath were several inches of ice. Even after digging as much snow away with my shoe, I was never able to hit dirt with my stake. I ended up having to burry my stakes in the snow. It wasn’t the ideal conditions for setting a shelter up for the first time, but we managed. After setting up our shelters we went off to get water and started cooking. After some problems with lighters and an esbit tablet, we all finally cooked dinner, talked for a few minutes and then got out of the cold and into the warmth of our sleep systems.

We woke up the next morning to 30* temps and started packing up camp. If I had any doubts about our stakes holding in the snow they faded quickly as we all had to chip our tent stakes out of the frozen snow and ice. That isn’t something us southerners are used to doing. We finally got all of our tent stakes out, got everything packed up, and hit the trail before 9:00am. It was another beautiful sunny day, a perfect day to be in the backcountry. Our footprints in the snow from the day before had frozen over making a few places a bit more slippery than on Saturday, but overall the footing was still decent. Once we started getting close to Hot Springs we encountered a lot of day hikers that were out enjoying the spring like weather. We got back to our cars in Hot Springs around 2:30pm, said our goodbyes and started our journeys home.

Snow on the south side of Rich Mountain
Snow-Rich Mtn

Views from Rich Mountain Fire Tower
View from Rich Mtn FTView from Rich Mountain FTView from Rich Mtn Fire T

Brad Fisher on Rich Mtn Fire Tower
Brad Fisher on Rich Mtn FT

Trevor Wilson on Rich Mtn Fire Tower
Trevor Wilson on Rich Mtn Fire Tower

Deep Snow Drifts
Deep Snow Drifts

Spring Mountain Shelter
Spring Mtn Shelter

Trevor's SpinnTwinn in the snow
Trevors SpinnTwinn in the Snow

Brad Fisher's Tarptent Moment in the snow
Brad Fisher's TT Moment in the snow

Brad Rogers' Tarptent Contrail in the snow
Brad Rogers' Tarptent Contrail in the snow

North side of Rich Mountain
Snowy Trail on Rich Mtn

More snow on the AT north of Hot Springs
More snow on the AT north of Hot springs

View of the French Broad River and Hot Springs - no snow this low
French Broad River

For more pictures, trip reports, upcoming trips and more check out our facebook page:

Facebook:Southern Appalachian Backpacking Light Club

jeff arnfield
(Windward) - F

Locale: NE Tennessee
Nice writeup, neighbor! on 02/24/2010 05:25:16 MST Print View

Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great trip. Amazing how quickly you can go from bare ground to a fair bit of snow in the TN/NC mountains this year, huh?

I live about an hour (by car) north of Asheville. Perhaps I'll run into you guys on the trail sometime.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Nice writeup, neighbor! on 02/24/2010 15:26:33 MST Print View

Thanks Jeff. If you don't want to sign up on the facebook group but would still like a list of our upcoming trips, I would be glad to PM them to you.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: AT: Hot Springs to Spring Mountain Shelter on 02/28/2010 15:50:24 MST Print View

Nice report. It looks like you got some great winter weather...all of the pretty scenery, without the downsides other than digging down to place the stakes.