Week 1: Land of Ice and Snow

The fact that I’m able to upload this should tell you the severity of this training hike wasn’t at such a degree that I was injured. However, it was miserable until Tuesday evening. The dates were predetermined months ago, and as such we were bound to follow through with the plan, despite the Winter Storm Front moving through the region from the east. I was wondering if they were even aware of this at 0530 Monday morning as I fought my frozen zipper to get free of my tent. Let me start at the beginning though.

We met at 0900 Sunday morning and hit the road for Mt. Rodgers in Virginia. At this time we were being rained on, and by my guess we’d only have a 30-45min window to set up camp where there was no rain. Obviously this is “less than ideal” for us, but doable in above freezing weather. We missed this window by about an hour.

Upon arrival it was raining on and off and the winds were picking up. We set to putting up a shelter tarp over out kitchen area and only picnic table at the campsite. That done the rain was getting worse so we put up our tents in hard packed gravel, set our guy-lines and gathered up under the tarp to review the employee handbook. As we did this the temperature dropped by the minute and the wind began to howl and roar. (We selected a site on the east face you see, looking at the storm approaching)

By the time we broke for supper I was trying to restore feeling in my hands and long given up on my toes. The windscreen did little to protect the stove from the brutal winds, but we managed to almost boil water for our rice mix amalgamation burritos. I really can’t remember what all was in the mix but I know there were carrots involved. The dishes were washed and we dove into our sleeping bags as the rain poured at 8 PM.

The next morning is when I discovered that we had been frozen into our tents. The previous night’s rain had turned into ¼ inch of snow that was still falling as I dragged myself into the frost covered hillside. I fought the tarp, wrestled the stakes into the ground, and managed to get a pot of water on. The blasted thing scoffed at my attention and refused to boil despite the stove’s best coercion. After a bottle of fuel was run out we decided it was close enough to hot for us. Two crew members were sent down the mountain for a weather report, and came back to confirm that it was indeed snowing and cold. The thirty minutes were well spent waiting on that riveting report.

We abandoned that steadily freezing mountain side to go to the Konnarock Trail Crew Base Camp nearby. This was a comparatively beautiful resort. Complete with a single, too small wood burning stove for heat in only one building… it was a welcome relief to outside. We gathered up around it like a campfire and even had the opportunity to dry our boots and thaw frozen outer garments.

At this humble, cozy base camp we did as much class work on the subject of trail building as was humanly possible in the two days we had inside. Luckily on the third day we drove out to our project site and made our plans. The large stones were moved into place and we departed back for base camp.

The final day turned out to be hectic. Breakfast, packing, cleaning, and driving was to be accomplished in 1.5 hours. This wasn’t a problem for us, thankfully. We got to the trail and installed our check step within 5 minutes of our time limit. Then we began the drive home, and the troubles began. We arrived back a hour and a half behind schedule despite good traffic on the way back. From what we could tell the optimal route wasn’t taken and the time to travel was severely underestimated.

All in all though we judged this a successful hitch given the “less than favorable” circumstances of our departure. Next up for me is Wilderness First Responder Training in the NOC. I have the training manual that I hope to get some review time in, and my old notebook from my last wilderness medical course. The high points in preventative steps and the more basic treatments will be making their way into Codex Informata! I’m also going to have a list of recommended books under that tab as well after some feedback I’ve received to keep all the book recommendations in one place as well as where they’re relevant. Thank you, Amber, for that idea!

Until next time, keep your eyes ahead, and always ALWAYS check the weather forecast before you go somewhere!