The cool wind blew slightly through the thin walls of the tent. However, it was nothing like the long sleepless night before. I felt my clothes feeling the icy wetness that consumed them now. I opened the zipper and felt the frosty air rush in. Peeking outside I saw a brilliant white layer of snow covering every inch of the leafed ground. The trees were white on one side, but the other side was just cold. The sky was a soft cloudy gray shining the early morning sunlight. I looked across the woods to a distant sitting place where my dad was starting to get things ready for the day ahead. However, this did not quite end up like we had all expected due to events that happened before.
The morning before, we had gotten everything packed up for our trip to Shuckstack Fire Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains: tent, sleeping bag, food, snacks, flashlight, cooking supplies, and warm clothes. We were planning on hiking around 22 miles between three days, including that day. We looked at the weather for the weekend, but who doesn’t before they go hiking in the woods for a weekend. The temperature was supposed to drop but we didn’t mind. My dad picked my younger sister, Emily, and I up from school a little early to start our trip, or at least to drive to the beginning of the trail. After all the business of getting there, we were finally in the mountains, completely away from the city. I took a deep breath, feeling the fresh nature air all around me, the peacefulness of the woods, which I so dearly love.
We strapped on our packs. And that’s when a hiker, coming down the trail, told us that it was going to be cold, but we were prepared. We hiked along a path that went up and up and up and up some more. It was about the second “up” when Emily and I grabbed some sticks for hiking poles. As the day went on it got gradually darker and gradually colder as we climbed up in elevation. The leaves trembled under the wind as it slowly began to pick up. It was an exciting day of hiking in the woods. I have always loved getting out into nature and away from people, cities, and noise.
We got to our site and set up the tent for Emily and I, and a hammock for my dad. We put on all our layers of clothes as it was becoming windy on the top of the mountain. The wind blew up the valleys and over the mountaintops. When we got settled in we made Ramen noodles for dinner. Which I have only had on a hiking trip, and it always tastes great after a long day of hiking. After dinner, we realized how dark it was. We turned off all our lights. We stood there in what was just about complete darkness. A thick layer of clouds completely covered the sky and the usually shining moon and stars. The birds, the squirrels, all the animals had become quiet as they were preparing for the harsh night still to come. That moment in the dark felt inspiring, a reminder that there is something way bigger than us. It’s amazing how nature all works together to make magical moments. We all climbed into our two-man tent to play some cards. Let’s just say I did pretty well, I don’t want to make my family feel bad. We finally turned the lights off but it took a long time to fall asleep.
The wind howled and shook the walls in and out, in and out. I drifted into sleep until my sister woke me up. It was literally raining in the tent. Yes, the rain was in the tent, water covered the floor and our sleeping bags. Our dad came over in the rain trying to help us with the rain fly. He helped some but we were still wet. The walls of the tent shook under the fierce power of the wind. I drifted into sleep again on and off, on and off every time waking up colder than the time before, continuously trying to put on as many layers as I could but everything was damp. I could still feel the rain dripping through the roof on my face every time I woke up, which was kind of alarming as the thought crossed my mind of the ability to drown in an inch of water. But I was too tired to worry about that, and way to cold. I noticed that Emily was always asleep which was a good thing, only I found out later that she just woke up when I was asleep.
Finally, it was morning, the rainy and windy night was over. I felt the crisp frozen air all around me. My heart beat slightly faster as I looked out at the shining snow. I took in the smell of snow, which I don’t normally get to do because I live in Georgia, the most unpredictable weather state ever. It had actually snowed! All the wind, cold, and rain became worth it. Worth going through to see the peacefulness and sereneness of that morning, perfectly white, which could not have existed if had not been for the bitter night before.
I noticed that the trees were covered only on the one side. It really had been windy that night in the valley. I placed out all my warm clothes that I had packed. Six layers in total, three of which were pretty much soaked, and these were my warmest layers. It was worse than I had thought. I felt the piercing wind blow cold to the bone. I did my best to put on the less damp layers and hiked over the valley to my dad. Yes, I waited for my sister because that was what she wanted. She never wants to go anywhere alone, especially in the woods. But that’s okay. We had a delicious meal of oatmeal, after having to heat it up for what felt like forever, no thanks to the wind.
Finally, the time came to decide what to do. Do we keep hiking like planned? Do we take a faster route where we just hike the path in one day, not two as planned? Or do we turn around and go back to the car the way we came? Now we all wanted to go on like planned, but when we started looking at all our stuff, we realized that might not be the smartest idea. The tent was soaked, muddy, and ultimately a lot heavier than it had started due to these additions. My stuff was clearly all soaked, seeing that I was on the lower half of the tent going downhill. And my dad and Emily were both frosty wet too. As we stood shivering, or at least I was for sure, we sadly came to the conclusion to turn back the way we came. This was not because we gave up, or just couldn’t handle it. It was just the smartest decision. I coughed and blew my nose, shivering in the wind. And not to mention it was supposed to get even colder that night than the one we just went through. That plus being wet just doesn’t make the best conditions. But we did still go to the top of the mountain peak were there was a tower a few miles off the main path.
It was beautiful hiking in the snow which stuck to the ground on top of a layer of wet leaves, which had been rained on first. As we went further down the mountain the sun rose higher, and the snow became less and less till it was all gone. I am not sure when but at some point, I realized the specialness of the trip. It may have not been what we had planned but it is a story I will be able to tell for a long time. Everything seemed against us but that was okay. I still had an inspirational trip spent with my dad and sister, and that’s all that truly matters, spending time doing what you love with the people you love. I have never regretted going on the trip and never will, if you don’t know what I mean go spend a night or two hiking in the woods and you’ll understand.