Monday, December 22, 2008

Misty Solistice December 20, 2008

The day was very misty. No ice until late in the day. Then the mist turned tree branches and pine needles into Christmas ornaments. Unlike last weekend the trail had almost no ice. Only about 60 hikers on the mountain today. Saw several groups backcountry camping several hundred feet off the trail along the fire roads. While in the parking lot I was able to provide a lot of useful information to a couple of parties who had driven from a distance, were new to the area, and were planning on backcountry camping.

Not only no views but as the darkness arrived the mist/fog thickened so that you could only see about 3 feet in front of your shoes. In the thick fog the rock scramble trail would be very easy to lose if you were not familiar with it. The rock scramble is also easier to find your way on going up than coming down. Just keep in mind that the actual trail was routed so that when it has difficult moves you are exposed to less than a six foot falls and where you are exposed to long falls the moves are not that difficult. I am not saying that you may not find yourself on fairly easy hand and footholds with longer drops, just that you should feel very secure about your holds when there are longer drops. Also if you see a double blue blaze this is an indicator that the trail makes a fairly sharp turn as in the middle of the small cave. There is at least one false trail; often taken even in good weather, just before Skyline/PATC wall, that requires you to backtrack around a football field to get back to where you left the actual trail. If you find yourself on a difficult move and there is a long fall you are off the trail. If you are not sure turn back and look for the actual trail. If worst comes to worst turn back.

In the thick foggy darkness I met one couple coming back up the Weakley Fire Road who wanted to know where the parking lot was. The mist was so heavy they could not tell that when the road hit a stream that it continued on the other side. They had found the footbridge but then got baffled at the fordable stream (with no bridge) just after the third footbridge. Even being able to see fifteen feet would have made this situation unfathomable but when you can literally only see a couple of feet it is much more understandable.

Another unique and great day on the mountain.

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