We took our time to get back to the trail.  We slept in, enjoyed a hot breakfast at the Sleep Inn in Bryson City, NH.  We had a few administrative things to take care of.  Life still continues, even when we are out here on the trail.  With out to do list complete, we headed back to the trail.  Nantahala Outdoor Center was a really fun stop.  

We stepped out with confidence.  The temperature was brisk, but really enjoyable for hiking.  We planned to make it 6.9 miles up to Sassafrass Gap.  Well, HELLO… our bodies let us know that we were back on the trail, and going straight up.  

We were making pretty good time.  We didn’t actually start hiking until about 2 pm.  Everyone was glad to be back on the trail.  It is fun to take a break, but too much time in town really causes us to miss home.  I guess that sounds crazy, but when we are on the trail we know that we are on mission together.  When we come into town and enjoy the comforts of home, warm food, and beds, it really causes us to miss our home, our food, and our beds.  Getting to visit with people in town, really causes us to miss our family and friends at home, more than we usually do.  

A little ways up the trail we stopped at a memorial to a fire fighter, who lost his life fighting a fire that was blazing in the area that we were walking through.  

“That you might more fully enjoy your hike along this trail.”  For the next hour, I contemplated his life, but more than his life, the life of our Savior.  He came that we might have life and have it abundantly.  He came and gave his life that we could more fully enjoy the trail that we walk along in this life.  In the silence of the woods, away from all of the noise of life, one can really think, and learn.  

As we continued to gain elevation, the weather began to roll in, quickly.  Within only a few moments, the mountains seen above were gone.  Taylor calls it “being trapped in a ping-pong ball.”

About 1 mile away from Sassafrass Gap, snow began to fall.  Fall is completely the wrong word.  Snow began to whip to the ground with a fury, stinging anything and everything in its way.  The wind slapped us in the face.  The temperatures dropped so drastically and so quickly that we were all instantly fighting to keep our hands warm.  The earth became a muddy and slippery mess in an instant.  Though our legs were tired, we picked up speed to as fast as we could go, without getting hurt.

When we arrived at Sassafrass Gap, we had the three youngest kiddos hunker down in the shelter, while we set up camp.  It was only 7:00 when we finally got the last stake in the ground, but it felt like midnight.  We had everyone quickly slide into their sleeping bags in order to avoid hypothermia.  Yes, it was really that cold, and we were a bit damp from the drizzling rain that had fallen all day.  

There was no chance that we were making dinner, because that would mean having to stand outside while cooking, and then we would have to mess with cleaning those dishes… in water!  Not a good idea.  So dinner was trailmix and macadamia nuts, with Tailwind calorie water.  It would just have to do. 

I think it was about 7:30 when we all fell asleep.  It was a super cold night!!!  I think that Ryan and I were scared that the kids were not going to be warm enough, so we really did not sleep all that well.  And if the night couldn’t have been crazier, Belle woke up at about 4:30 and managed to puncture Taylors sleep pad.  The night was even hard on her.  

Clearly, we survived, all digits healthily in tact… but really we are hoping that is the last of the frigid temps.  I am sure at some point, sooner than later, we will be extremely uncomfortable as we deal with the humid heat of the south…. but at least in the heat, you are not at risk of losing your fingers or toes!

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