Worst backpack trip? Sorry but we had to bail on this one, when we took the scouts up to Pine Mountain, GA, FDR State Park back in 2008. We drove up on Friday night, set up a temporary base camp after midnight. The rain started about 3am, and by 9am it changed completely to snow. This was the forecast, and we were not surprised by this at all. By 10am, we hit the trail with our “older” scouts. Our goal for the day was 7 miles, which we made easily, but trudging in the snow, our feet (especially mine) got very wet, as we had a few stream crossings.
It quit snowing before we rolled into camp, but the temperature was beginning to drop. The forecast was for 22° that night, and I estimate we were already close to that by the time we made camp. My feet were wet, and I could not get them warm. I changed into some dry socks and dry camps shoes, but the crunchy, icy snow snuck into my shoes and made everything wet (and cold) again. We had a hard time cooking our food that night, because the water just would not boil. Everyone climbed into their sleeping bags, but I could not shake the chill; and though I was wearing dry clothes, I shivered and barely slept all night long. By morning, my feet were stinging and in retrospect, I was not of clear thought. Most of our small group was not much better.
We had no access to vehicles, except at the end of the trail, so we packed up and headed out. After less than a mile, we ran into a lone (older) scout from the other group. His dad (leader) had blown out a knee, and the other group was bailing. It was pure chance that we bumped into him, but we now had our “out.” It raised everyone’s spirits to know we were getting out, even if it took another 2 hours to hitch to the cars and ferry them back. While waiting for the cars, we ran into a ranger who estimated that our overnight temps had dropped into the single digits, he suggested about 8°. No wonder our propane/isobutane stoves would not work well. Remember, we were a bunch of Florida boys.
The same weekend two years later, we took a different group up to the same trail (Pine Mountain Trail), and the “older” scouts (different group this time) had decided upon the same exact route (by chance). The forecast was for temps in the low 40s but for rain the first day. Again, the forecast proved completely accurate with the rain beginning in the middle of the first day of hiking, and (most) everyone’s gear got soaked.
We set up in the rain and (most) everyone’s tents were wet inside. The rain was only forecast to last for 6 hours, but lingered on for closer to 20 hours! My tent was only a little damp but everyone else’s gear was soaked through and through (we were wringing out sleeping bags). With temps predicted to be near freezing, and it still raining off and on, we again decided to bail, and got to a car, and took everyone’s bags to a laundry-mat for drying. The younger scouts in a different group on a different route did much better and had bragging rights.
Then last year, there was a major ice storm in January, forcing us to change the location of our hike, and the scouts ended up again (reluctantly) deciding to hike at Pine Mountain. We did take a slightly different route, and, though there were a few small patches of snow on the first day, the weather remained dry, and we got through the three day trek with no ill effects. For those of us who had gone multiple years, it was a real victory that we actually got through the trail.