My Appalachian Trail adventure continues as Michael and I hike to Fontana Dam.
Survived the brutally cold night. Lows of 15 with wind gusts of 20-30mph. Quickly packed up and set out into the snow. The day was actually nice. The sun came out and slowly warmed the air.
We reached the top of Wesser Bald and climbed to the top of the fire tower. The panoramic views were spectacular and we could see the snowy peaks of the Smoky Mountains in the distance.
We pushed farther than planned and made it to the Nantahala River. Beautiful little spot with kayaking and white water rafting in the summer. We stayed at the hostel along the river and picked up some snack food from the general store. Then it was my favorite time… dinner.
I feel like a dog out here, looking forward to meal times and eating everything. We ate at a restaurant on the river where I downed Cherry Coke like it was my job and ate a 16-inch pizza by myself. Michael and I hobbled back to the hostel with sore legs and bloated stomachs.
Day’s Mileage: 16.5 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 145.5
Remaining Miles: 2,054.2
It’s crazy to think it’s only Day 11. I feel like I’ve been out here a month. After a comfy night in the hostel, we set out for a short day. Six miles all up hill was the plan. When we reached the shelter where we planned to stay, it wasn’t even noon. The weather had said possible rain but it didn’t look bad. Not wanting to sit around all afternoon, we decided to take advantage of the fog in lieu of rain and pressed on.
Our 6-mile day quickly turned into 12. The guidebook listed some hostels and bed and breakfasts near a highway crossing. When my phone could get service, I called and all of them were booked. So further we pressed on.
At one point we encountered a very steep section of trail called Jacob’s Ladder. Honestly an actual ladder would have been easier and less steep! We overcame and continued hiking into the clouds and fog. It felt like trekking through a jungle at times, picking our way through moss-covered boulders and leafy azaleas and rhododendrons, all covered in a thick, humid fog.
By day’s end it was nearly dark when we set up camp at Cody Gap. There was no shelter there, just a fire pit. I ate a quick meal before dusk and got in my tent just before the rain began. I guess tonight will be the real test of my tent’s waterproofness.
All in all, our easy 6-mile day became nearly 19 miles!
Day’s Mileage: 18.9 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 164.4
Remaining Miles: 2,035.3
My tent survived the rain. I woke up and thought I must have slept in. My phone said 7am. Usually we hit the trail around 7am but this morning it was just getting light out. Then I realized daylight savings time had occurred. I packed my wet tent up after the rain had stopped and we began hiking.
We were hoping for a short day in the rain but the forecasted precipitation never came. It was a long 10-mile descent. There were a lot more steep ascents than we expected. As we descended through a thick fog, we finally could see Fontana Dam and it’s reservoir.
We stopped at the Fontana Dam Shelter, nicknamed the Fontana Hilton due to its large size (sleeps 20), solar power source, views of the reservoir, and nearby running water, showers, and toilets. Not wanting to be crammed in with 20 people, Michael and I opted to set up our tents nearby for some quiet and to let them dry out.
A few miles away is a large resort; the only civilization in the area. We took the resort shuttle there and visited a gas station for some resupply on snacks and dinner. $1 Poptarts seemed to be the real winner. Then we sat around the hotel lobby waiting for the restaurant to open at 5pm. I’m writing this as we wait.
Also, we used the hotel printer to print our Great Smoky Mountain National Park thru-hiker permits. We will be entering the park tomorrow, a day ahead of schedule. Lots of snow is forecast so we shall see what happens!
Update: The resort shuttle service back to the shelter ended at 6pm. After our dinner at the resort of burgers, we had to take the maintenance pick-up truck back to the shelter. The two of us squeezed into the front passenger seat, trying to make room for the driver to reach the stick shift. The windshield looked like Carrie Underwood took a bat to it.
At the shelter, a trail angel had brought pizzas so I added three slices to my day’s calorie count. FYI, trail angels are people who graciously provide trail magic to hikers.
In other news, since I began this hike, the hip belt on my pack has been digging into my sides, causing an enormous amount of pain. I have been constantly shifting my pack and have been applying crazy amounts of bandages on my hips as they have been chaffed raw. Thinking that maybe this has been caused by the elastic bands on my underwear, shorts, or leggings, I have experimented with cutting the elastic off or wearing my shorts very low. None of this has helped. I had heard of people hiking in kilts so I thought, why not just hike without underwear and see if that solves the elastic band problem. Thus, the last week or so I have been hiking commando. It may have helped a bit but as I walked into the hotel at Fontana Dam, my ass began chaffing so badly I could hardly walk. This no-underwear experiment proved a failure and I was forced to buy an overpriced bottle of possibly expired body lotion from the hotel to easy my suffering. Lesson learned. Now I still need to figure out a solution to my bruised hips.
Day’s Mileage: 9.9 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 174.3
Remaining Miles: 2,025.4
Daily Average: 14.5
My favorite Thomas Rhett song. I mean, I’m in the South!