Day One: This expedition was one of the hardest and coldest that we had gone on yet. We hiked out a day late due to bad weather, but it was no better when we left the next day. At 9:20 a.m. we were told we would be hiking off the property rather than taking the bus, due to snow covered roads. We put on our backpacks, and headed out along the creek trail that runs through the FMA property. We crossed the 6-acre parcel of land at the back of the property, and began walking on Waters Road, then on Eastridge Road, which led us to the Flatwood area where we began our ascent up the Academy Trail to the Iron Mountain Trail. Upon reaching the top, we took a ten minute break and then, using the “tank tread” method, where each of us took turns breaking trail through the snow, we headed West on the Iron Mountain Trail. After hours of tiring hiking, we arrived at the top of the Birch Branch Trail, where we would camp for the night. We quickly set up our tents, got fires started, meals cooked, and settled in for a cold night.
Day Two: We awoke to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen, and I hoped that it might be a sign that the weather was changing. After a short delay, we began our hike down the Birch Branch Trail. There was plenty of snow on the ground, which slowed us down a bit, and we arrived at camp at around 2:00 p.m. We set up our tents, started fires, and got our dinner cooking. There was a creek running right next to our camp spot so we had plenty of water.
Day Three broke with the promise of another cold and wintery day. After a small delay, we set out and down a creek bed, which we had to cross several times. Snow was falling on and off throughout the day, as we crossed over Highway 133 near Shady Valley, TN and up a little known and rarely traveled trail up Rutter Branch. After numerous creek crossings and two steep climbs, we reached Abingdon Gap on the Appalachian Trail. There was lots of wood for fires, and snow for melting into water. It was late when we arrived, so Mr. Mike decided to repair the water source in the morning when it was light.
Day Four was a non-hiking day, and we were given the luxury of another beautiful sunrise and a clear day to dry out our gear and get warm.
Day Five broke with yet another spectacular sunrise and cold weather, but not nearly as cold as on the previous day which made fire starting, breakfast cooking and camp departure easier. We began our hike on time towards Damascus, Virginia along the Appalachian Trail, through a snow covered landscape with beautiful scenic views on either side of the ridge. Even though the hike took six hours, it was a beautiful day. We arrived in camp and began setting up tents and starting fires. The water source was about a 30 minute hike down a steep hill, but it was fun.

Day Six began as beautiful as the previous day, and we departed from Saddle Camp at 8:45 a.m. to begin our hike along the Appalachian Trail to Damascus, Virginia. The five- mile hike took approximately three and a half hours and provided spectacular views on both sides of the ridge. We arrived in Damascus at around 1:00 p.m. with time to spare, and we were treated to a soda and the chance to catch up on some reading. Even though this may have been the coldest and toughest expedition yet, I believe everyone learned something along the way. I know I did. Pain can sometimes be your best friend, because it always reminds you that you are alive and going strong on this beautiful planet we call home.

One Response to Expedition Five by Cree D.

  1. Cree, what a wonderful attitude you have. I can only imagine the freezing, wet conditions, but you highlighted the sunrises and God's beauty around you, rather than the conditions that could have made you miserable – or perhaps DID make you miserable. But just think of the stories you will have to tell your family and friends, and later children and grandchildren. Harsh weather makes you strong – and teaches you what you are made of!! (I know, I should not end my sentence with a preposition, but I wanted to make a point.) Congrats on your journey!

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