Expedition three started out with warm temperatures and clear skies. After a four-mile hike, at 12:50 p.m., we arrived at our first camp, Upper Birch Branch, which was tucked into a dense rhododendron thicket.
My tent partner, Jordan, and I woke up on day two at 6:20 a.m. to scattered clouds, and I was grateful that the rain had not yet hit us. Later that day, in warm sunny weather, we set off on a seven-mile hike, which took us up to Abingdon Gap. We crossed the AT and headed downhill to where our campsites spread out below us. We would stay there for the next three days.
On day three it began to rain, but Jordan and I still enjoyed making doughnuts that satisfied us in the field. That day at rally we learned about the Beaufort scale and wind chill.
On day four we awoke to the unpleasant gift of a soaked tent, which was getting even wetter from the steady downpour of rain, but the good news was we had coals left over to start our fire. The rain stopped in time for our 1:00 p.m. class and the three-leg compass hike below the AT. Later that day it started pouring again, and evening classes were canceled; that night, once again, we enjoyed a dinner of lentils and rice.
The fifth day started at 7:30 a.m. when we awoke to an unexpected carpet of snow making that morning’s fire awfully hard to start. We left Abingdon Gap at 11:00 a.m. and hiked to our next camp. Passing the midway mark to Damascus lifted all of our spirits on that cold day. That evening it cleared up, and we were able to dry out all our gear.
On day six, Jordan and I woke up at 7:10 a.m., excited to go home. That morning’s fire burst into warm flames that sent the freezing cold weather out of my mind. We discussed how we couldn’t wait for the Parmesan chicken awaiting us back at the school. At 9:30 a.m., we had a first-aid class and learned how to make splints. We also met a southbound AT hiker named Eddie, who had 460 miles to go to complete the AT. At 11:30 a.m. we hiked out and arrived in Damascus at 1:20 p.m., where we were treated to cold sodas provided by Mr. Mike. At 2:47 p.m. the wonderful yellow school bus picked us up and took us back to FMA. This expedition taught me a lot about camping in cold weather.