This morning was cold. Cold and windy. Which made for a rather uncomfortable hike. The ground was frozen solid, or covered with snow, for most of the morning, and with the snow blown off the trees from yesterday, it no longer resembled a winter wonderland. Especially after the water lines to our water packs froze up.
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It snowed overnight. Once we managed to make it out of our sleeping bags, we were greeted with a beautiful sight. A thin layer of snow covered the non-trail surfaces, neatly highlighting the path forward. A thin fog surrounded the mountain, and everything was calm and quiet. A veritable winter wonderland.
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Today was a long, slow, and somewhat miserable climb into the Smokies. It was cold, and the only time the wind wasn't blowing hard was when we were low enough that a hill could block it. It was still blowing, though, and when it wasn't blowing on you, it still sounded like an airplane overhead.
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Today was a lazy, relaxing day. Several of us grabbed a shuttle from near the shelter to the (nearby) Fontana Village resort, and we had breakfast there while waiting for Beast's parents to arrive, and for them to check-in to their room.
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Today started off with some relatively uninteresting terrain, leading up to Stecoah Gap. After the gap, a moderate 250 ft elevation gain gave way to the 600 ft gain over 0.6 mi that is "Jacobs Ladder".
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