The fifth expedition at FMA was a cold and consequential one. We hiked approximately thirteen to seventeen miles through beautiful, ice-covered terrain.
The coldest night was the first one, when we camped on a ridge. The wind was howling next to our ears and made it challenging to start a fire.
For most of the expedition my toes were so numb, I almost forgot I had them. Even now, as I write this, the shooting pain in my feet, as my nerves come back to life, will not let me forget that I didn’t listen to Mr. Mike when he told me to keep my boots between my legs when I slept in order to keep them from freezing.
The most memorable day was the hike to the Tri-State marker, where Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia all come together. When we got to the top of the mountain, we stepped into a gorgeous, ice-covered meadow. Everything, from the smallest blade of grass to the largest tree, was coated in ice crystals. I forgot about the cold, and I forgot about my aching feet and shoulders. I forgot that there always seemed to be another hill around every turn. I took in the beauty, and I realized that someday I’d like to enjoy this with my family.
On the last day, we crossed a large number of fords over Gentry Creek. That didn’t help my feet much. There was also a very steep traverse that I thought I would fall off. It was a twenty-five foot drop to the bottom of Gentry Falls, and the snow didn’t make the footing very stable. A few times I took the “easy” way out, and slid down the trail instead of slipping my way down on foot.
On this expedition, I noticed how much stronger I’m becoming. I didn’t have any trouble with my breathing, and I wasn’t nearly as tired. I’ve changed a lot since the first expedition, and I plan on improving even more.

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