What a miserable night!  We are glad that everyone survived the freezing temps and whipping winds that came across the mountain overnight.  This morning, as I lay toasty warm in my sleeping bag, many thoughts crossed my mind.  First, I was so thankful that we had not skimped on the sleep systems that we purchased for this trip.  I think that they quite literally saved our lives last night.  Second, as I heard the winds whooshing over the mountain, I was extremely thankful that we were nestled down in a ways from the top.  As windy as it was where we were, I could hear how much more windy it was above.  The wind was howling, screaming even, over the mountains edge.

It was extremely hard to convince ourselves to get out of those sleeping bags.  I think that we could have, maybe even should have just stayed put.  Begrudgingly, we pulled ourselves from their warmth and began the process of packing up our sleeping bags, and breaking down our tents.  Every so often, the suns rays would reach our hands, warming them for a moment.  Had it not been for the clouds and the wind, I am certain it would have been one of the best weather days yet… but alas, the clouds lingered and the winds whipped.

About 1pm, after eating a little lunch, we finally made our way out of the gap and onto the mountains edge.  Our gloves were still wet from the day before, so our hands were cold and stiff.  There were even times when we had to trudge through foot deep snow drifts.  I guess it paid off to not be the first ones out of camp.  We stepped carefully in the tracks of hikers who had met the drifts before us.  We knew if we could just get to the other side of the mountain, we would be better off.  It was an intense climb… but the reward of warmer temperatures, and a natural wind barrier were worth it. 

The views from the top of the mountain were beautiful,  We stopped here to have a family chat.  These moments are why we are out here, dealing with the insanity of the weather and difficulty of the trail.  We talked about how we have all changed over the last few years.  We talked about how in some ways we have grown stronger, but in other ways calloused.  We shared about how we all assumed roles that were not really meant for us, and how we have the opportunity to trust one another to carry their own weight and not the weight of another.  These conversations are not easy, but they are necessary!

We have all come through so much.  We have not given up on eachother, and that is a beautiful and rare thing.  However, we have not come though unscathed, or whole.  This journey is about healing and becoming whole… as a family and individually.  Really, it was a beautiful conversation.  I am certain many more of these will follow. 

Though, we were able to thaw out… we decided it was necessary to come back off the mountain for the night.  No one really slept last night, and the temperatures started dropping again.  So tonight we find ourselves in the Stecoah Wolf Creek Hostel.  Mr. Lonnie, is a kindhearted fellow.  It has been a real treat to meet him, and stay in a warm home for the night. He even made us fresh popped popcorn, and brought Krispy Kreme donuts over for all to enjoy. 

Again, this adventure is full of all sorts of twists and turns.,  Tomorrow, we plan to hike about 15 miners to Fontana Dam Shelter.  We will stay in Fontana Dam on Sunday, then head into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on Monday.

We are figuring this thing out moment by moment, day by day, one step at a time. 

Good night friends.  Happy Trails. 

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