On our way to the trailhead, we ascended 2000 feet over the course of about seven miles. Along the ascension we got to see several stunning sites including this waterfall just off the roadway.
|Find the trail! Don't get lost!|
We elected to press on to the spot which we had planned to make camp. Except that we were heading straight there instead of taking 7-mile loop around to it. Our camp spot was beside the Blue Ridge Parkway which was 7.5 trail miles away from our vehicle. Since we were moving at only about 1 mile per hour it was going to take us 7.5 hours to get to our car on day 2, when we had only planned on it taking about 3 hours. Thus, we elected to skip the trails on the way back on day 2 and just hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is a beautifully paved highway with absolutely no traffic because it's closed due to snow and ice. Our plan was formed.
|Deep, Snowy Trail|
The sign indicated we were 2.2 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway (and our campsite). So we knew even at a 1 MPH pace we were be there in no more than 2 hours and some change. Luckily that 2.2 mile stretch was the flattest, smoothest, and most "unsnowy" section of trail we saw the entire day and we made it to our campsite in just under an hour.
Finding wood to make a fire was a real challenge. Finding dry wood was impossible. Nonetheless we got a modicum of a fire rolling although it took nearly two hours and a lot of effort. We ate our traditional "victory chili" before cleaning up camp so as not to attract any visiting bears during the night and turned in for the night. After the sun dipped behind the mountain ridge, the temperatures plummeted fast. While the fire provided no particular warmth, we picked up a few of the stones that made up our fire ring and brought them in the tent to put underneath our feet in the sleeping bags to keep them them warm. This was especially nice considering yours truly had been sporting sopping, wet socks for the better part of four hours.
It was about a 5-mile hike back to our car along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even with 25-30 pounds of gear on our backs, under ideal road conditions we can exceed 2 MPH, even with occasional breaks factored in.
|Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway|
|The Devil's Courthouse|
We arrived at our car in a little less than 2 hours after stepping onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, moving at a clip of about 2.5 miles per hour, mostly uphill with a ton of gear on. That also included a 15-minute stop for a mid-morning snack. I learned a tremendous number of lessons on this trip without too much heartache and ultimately hit the two main things I wanted to when planning the hike, reaching Black Balsam Knob, and camping in the Graveyard Fields. Seeing some snow was an added bonus though it added much aggravation onto the trip, causing us to alter plans numerous times. Still a great trip that we're planning to do again in warmer weather.