Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail: Nantahala Outdoor Center To Fontana Dam

Friday, April 26, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Nantahala Outdoor Center To Fontana Dam

UPDATED 10-18-2020

Note: I replaced a defective cable and now have GPS maps.  I have updated the last two posts with their maps.

A river winds through a valley.
One thing I like about the Appalachian Trail (AT) is how primitive the trail is.  Despite the thousands of people who hike the trail each year, especially in the south before most thru-hikers give up, the trail is still a narrow winding path with minimal markings.  On the AT you can forget who you are and be anywhere and anywhen you desire to be.

Day 21 - Today hiking out of Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) was brutal.  Up, up, and up some more. After topping Swim Bald I took an hour rest break at Sassafras Gap Shelter.  The rest helped a little but the climb to Cheoah Bald afterwards was still tough and the drop down to Locust Cove Gap seemed never ending.

Ha Ha … Very funny.
I suspect my problem was not enough calories while I was at NOC.  The over four thousand feet of climbing probably didn't help much either.  Oh, and altitude certainly played a role too.

I have to admit I have been spoiled staying in shelters.  They are so much more comfortable and convenient. I considered going to the next shelter after my planned goal but that would be a 11.7 miles - a distance I could do but I'm not sure if I should do. I set up my tent. I was there with four or five other hikers.

Day 22 - I woke up to a busted zipper on my tent's rain fly.  I also saw my self-standing modification also came apart. The modification can easily be repaired.  The rain fly not so much. I stopped at the next shelter for a rest and to call my tent manufacturer.  I was lucky that I'd purchased the tent straight from the manufacturer so they knew when I'd purchased it. Originally they wanted me to send a picture but after explaining my poor cell reception to them they were very nice and decided to send a new rain fly to Gatlinburg, TN for me to pick up.
Today was not as bad as yesterday but there was a part a lady had warned me about called Jacob's Ladder.  It went straight up the mountain so I went up the mountain … slowly.

My original stop for the day was Cody Gap campsite but when I got there I noticed that it was mostly downhill to the next shelter.  Mostly because the Appalachian Trail is never all up or all down. I'm glad I moved on as I felt pretty good once I arrived even though it was an 11.7 mile (18.8 km) day.  The push today means a shorter day tomorrow and more time in the Fontana Dam area for my next nearo and zero days.

The tree loves Hogback Gap.
At the shelter I met Pace Car who is nursing a sore ankle and several others who pushed long days to Fontana including Mad Max, Two Stick, and Double-D.
Days 23 & 24 - Wow! Three weeks on the trail. I hustled out of the rather stinky shelter (dirt, dust, and critter droppings) and headed to Fontana Dam. After an initial climb the trail turned down for a looong time.
I reached my destination, the Fontana Dam Shelter known as the Fontana Hilton. On the way down the hill I decided to splurge and get a room in the Fontana Village Lodge. It was Thursday and still early in the season so getting a room wasn't difficult. It would be nice to eat some food, spread out on a real bed, do laundry, and maybe soak in the bathtub.

I walked from the Shelter to the Dam where they had showers. I took a shower and put clean clothing before I called for the Fontana Village Lodge courtesy shuttle.
I picked up my food package I'd sent myself from Franklin and a replacement cable for my GPS the Wife sent me. I spent the afternoon updating posts, sorting out food for the next four to five days of hiking. Sorting food and other logistics has become a big part of my in-town time just like finding and filtering water is a big on-trail chore each day.

I bought an M&M cookie ice cream sandwich in the camp store. As I was eating it an M&M popped out and landed on the ground in front of a bench where a couple hikers sat. I thought about picking it up off the ground but one of the hikers said "If you're not going to do it …" and popped it in his mouth. That is one of the stories I heard on the trail: How do you tell what kind on hiker a person is? A Day hiker would ignore food on the ground, A Section hiker would pick it up and eat it. A Thru-Hiker would pick it up, eat it, and dig around to see if there is any more.

I had a great meal at the bar and a couple mediocre meals in the too frou-frou resort restaurant. The claim to fame for this resort is the winding road called the Tail of the Dragon. Car and motorcycle makers hold conventions here and demonstrate their vehicles on the tough winding curves of the road.
Today I will be eating breakfast, doing last minute laundry, and moving to the Fontana Hilton where I will spend the night before tackling the Great Smokey Mountains.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 171.60 Miles (276.16 km)
Section Distance: 30.14 Miles (48.50 km)
Section Elevation Up: 7,677 ft (2,340 m)
Section Elevation Down: 7,592 ft (2,314 m)

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