Sunday, December 12, 2021
Well, thankfully we didn’t get blown away in yesterday’s howling windstorm. Sounds like it got pretty nasty in a lot of places, not just the Smokies, so hats off to the NPS for smartly discouraging entry into the park. Now that things have calmed down and the sun is back, travelers should be able to enjoy the mountains safely today. As of this moment, US 441 (Newfound Gap Rd) is back open to vehicular traffic. For the most part it was a rather warm day at the lodge Saturday, as we reached a high temp of 47°. As expected, once that front moved through and the rain stopped, the mercury dropped and winter’s chill returned. We got all the way down to 17° last night and are sitting in the lower 20s here as the rising sun overtakes High Top. The rain gauge collected just under 1.5” of liquid precip, definitely one of the better soakings we’ve received in what feels like forever. Due to the swift cool down, expect ice to have formed in places on trail, so remember those traction devices.
With abundant sunshine on tap for the next few days, it’ll be interesting to explore the mountain and see how it held up elsewhere after yesterday’s storms. It’s always impressive how well the trees hold up during such forceful wind events. Especially when you consider how shallow the root systems are at this elevation. One indicator reflecting the firs’ and spruces’ adaptive strategy at places like Cliff Tops is how their branches mostly form facing inward toward the mountain and away from the open ledges. The alternate path that connects Cliff Tops to the backcountry shelter is notorious for witnessing trees and surface soil lifting and rocking without ever coming uprooted. It’s almost as if the earth is breathing from place to place as the trail waves back and forth like the ocean. Certainly a bit unnerving to observe, but impressive nonetheless. The mountain stands mighty for another day!
Have a great end to the week. The Rambling Man
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