The current weather report in Michigan is ridiculously cold with unnecessary amounts of snow. Unfortunately Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky have a similar outlook at present. With only 20 days till the expedition starts I’m adjusting my gear and my plans accordingly. Why didn’t Daniel Boone choose June or July to do this? I’ll need to have a word with him when I get to heaven.
Being from the great white north of Michigan, and not familiar with the southern Appalachians in the winter, I used Weather.com and NOAA.com to find what the averages would be for Middlesboro in March. The data says 33 for a low and 59 for a high with 5.24 inches precipitation. That would be a very good range for hiking, but it seems this winter is well outside the bell curve.
As for snow fall, the Lexington area has a yearly average of 13 inches. Just this past week Lexington received 13 inches of snow in one fell swoop. I scrolled through several live weather web cams in the middle south and it appears “the great white” moniker applies to more than the north.
So what does this mean to a dirt bagger on a 200 mile stroll? Staying warm while walking is usually not a problem as long as you don’t overheat and sweat. Being moist from perspiration can create problems when you stop and the cold sets in. An extra layer of clothing is added, and venting when necessary, and everything should be peachy. The snow isn’t a major dillema as long as it isn’t too deep, which it doesn’t appear to be, and i’m sure the next few weeks will bring some melt off.
But what about sleeping in this refrigerator? Snow can actually be an insulating element when it’s built up around the edges of my tarp. My sleeping bag is rated to be comfortable at 30 degrees. Adding my bivvy sack can add another 5 degrees of comfort and being under the tarp another 5. I’ll be carrying a Thermo-lite 2 Bivvy which can ward off another 10 degree drop. So all in all, I should be cozy down to the low teens or single digits. Just call me Princess Elsa, cause the cold doesn’t bother me anyway.
But here is my one fear. Warmer temps are inevitable sometime between when I start on the 10th and when I finish on the 26th. All that snow covering the slopes of the mountains will melt and head to the rivers and creeks. Trickles will become babbles and babbles will become rushes which will turn into torrents which will grow into ragings.
My Idea of experiencing this trail with all the hardships of crossing rivers with no bridges may be getting washed away. The Clinch, the Cumberland and the Rockcastle rivers looked like cold, but doable, swims in June and October. However, March’s melt off could carry this Walter Mittyian adventurer away from his goal. Each ford will need to be a decision between taking the plunge or living to walk another day.