AT Days 13-14
Day 13: NOC to Cody Gap, 19.3 miles
After a restful night at the NOC, I was back on trail by 7:30, motivated to get my biggest mileage day in. The AT regained all of the elevation it lost when dropping down to the NOC, and it did so by way of an 8.5-mile tough ascent, gaining over 3,200 feet of elevation in the process.
The challenging climb was worth it; the views atop Cheoah Bald provided more stunning views of the surrounding mountainous landscape. If there’s one thing the AT doesn’t lack, it’s views. After eating lunch at Locust Grove Gap, I got a text from Trail Candy telling me there was some awesome trail magic at Stecoah Gap, three miles away. The trail magic was indeed awesome; one could have done a complete resupply there if needed thanks to the massive display of popular trail food.
Fueled by chips and a beer, I set off down the trail 20 minutes after trail candy. We had our eyes set on Cody Gap, 5 miles away. It was very hot outside at this point, and the climb right out of Stecoah Gap up Jacob’s latter was one of the steepest of the entire trail thus far. I arrived at Cody Gap just after 4:00, not too far behind Trail Candy. I wanted to challenge and push myself today, and challenge myself I did. For the day, I climbed over 6,000 feet of vertical elevation gain over a span of 19.3 miles. I was more than content with the day’s effort. Sleep came very easily that night.
The forecast for the day called for storms in the afternoon, so in an attempt to beat the rain I was on trail by 7:30. Fontana Dam was a short 8.3 miles away, where I would be spending a night at the Fontana Lodge. The only room available was a two-bed room, so Penguin was happy to accept the open spot when offered to her back at the NOC.
The first 5 miles flew by with only one short climb thrown in. Then came the 3-mile descent down to the Dam. I’ll be flat out honest-the descent was not very fun for me, and I think almost every other hiker would agree. I am never a fan of long, gradual descents, but this one seemed to go on forever. By the time I finally reached the Fontana Marina at 10:45, my quads and knees were cursing at me.
Trail Candy had beat me to the Marina, and the rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out and eating at the Marina with him and Green Bean, the other hiker who camped at Cody Gap the previous night. Penguin arrived a few hours later and we took a quick shuttle down the road to the lodge.
Tomorrow begins my 4-day, 71-mile traverse through the Smoky Mountains, and to say that I’m pumped would be an understatement. I’m ready to amp up the mileage to 18-20 mile days, and this stretch in the Smokies seems like the perfect opportunity to test my endurance while immersing myself in everything these mountains have to offer.
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