AT07 NOC to Fontana

March 18 – 1 mile to the NOC

I pack my stuff and just eat a protein bar before walking the short mile down to the NOC . I am planning to have more food once I get down there.
Boomerang, Rockstar et U-turn are already there, waiting for the outfitter and the restaurant to open.

We discuss about the coming night and the low temperature. We all agree to share a rent for the coming freezing night as it is supposed to be 20⁰F.
I visit the outfitter and buy hand warmers to put in my quilt for the cold nights to come in the future.
Once the general store is open, we head there to get a coffee and book a bunkhouse for the 6 of us (Boomerang, Rockstar, UTurn, TimberWolf, Rearview and I).

Lunch time is the opportunity to spend time together and with other hikers (Mandarin, JT and Wingspan).

We then head to the river side to play cornbags and Jenga. We have a lot of fun hanging out together, and start to get to know eachother better.

True camradery time.

When we get our room, we set our beds and relax for a while.
I don’t have a towel so I don’t take a proper shower, but I wash my hair and I try to dry it with my buff as much as I can.
Rockstar and I decide to go back to the restaurant for dinner and we are joined back Mandarin, Rearview and Timberwolf to enjoy more chatting around a beer and a pizza. All a hiker may need !

There is a camp fire going tonight at the campsite. But it is very cold and I am tired, so I renounce going there.
I lay down in bed, trying to figure out how many days of food I’ll need to buy in Fontana to go across the Smoky mountains. I am very excited to hike through the National Park soon !
I’ve got a couple of days to come with a plan. Right now it is passed bed time. Yes, it is already 8.30…

March 19 – 17 miles to Brown Fork Gap Shelter

We all wake up around 6.30.
We talk about the snores. Who is a snorer, who has the loudest or longest snore. Then we start packing, and we all go with our own morning routine. I decide to make my breakfast in the comon kitchen and wash my ustensils.

Boomerang leaves at 7.30, soon followed by U-turn. Rearview, Rockstar and I leave at the same time a little bit later. Timberwolf is just behind. We don’t stay together for long since we have different paces.
It is uphill for 7 miles, but it is not so hard, and the trail is beautiful.

I notice that there are fewer white blazes along the trail since I left the NOC.

Despite the cold I decided to wear my shorts only, and it’s ok. I can feel the cold tightening my legs, but I feel alive!
I wear my buff around my mouth to protect it from the cold, and it gets damp with condensation. When I take my buff off, it freezes !

Some streams are frozen, there are icicles everywhere, it looks so pretty!

I’ve got to climb over a couple of fallen trees and hop on rocks, go through tight rhododendron tunnels, I really enjoy the trail !

I am waiting for a nice spot in the sun to stop for a snack, and I find the perfect place at the Jump-Up view point.

A bit more climbing and I reach Sassafras gap shelter around 11.30. I stop there for the privy and lunch.
Rearview arrive a few minutes later and we talk about where we’ll stop tonight. The next campsite is only 2 hours further, it is too early to stop…
Just past noon we leave together, and soon after we arrive at a nice clearing with a beautiful view. U-turn and rockstar are there. U-turn says he’s going to stop at the campsite, Rearview and Timberwolf too.
Rockstar and I are keen to go 9 mile further to the next shelter and the two of us take off.

We walk the rest of the way together, we kinda have a similar pace.

We reach the campsite just before 2pm and we definitly want to go further.
When we reach the road and fill up our  water bottles, we get a message from Rearview : “Mandarin says Jacob’s ladder is difficult. We are staying at the campsite”.
Well… Jacob’s ladder is indeed difficult! Long steep hill to climb! But we cheer eachother and we are proud to have accomplished this difficult section at the end of a very long day.

We gladly arrive at the shelter where Boomerang arrived hours before. This girl is not walking, she’s flying!
It’s only the three of us.
I figure a way to hang my bear bag despite the lack of good braanches, and we went to get water and soak it feet in the stream.

There is no proper tent spot here, so I set up my bed in the shelter next to Boomerang while my food is cooking.
Hikers started to arrive, and before dark, we are at least 15 people here.
Only two other guys decide to sleep in the shelter. Everyone else has pitched their tent on weird terrain…
We stretched, we talked, we ate…

Soon after 7pm I crawled in my bed, and probably fell asleep just after 8.

March 20 – 13 miles to Fontana Dam Shelter

It’s very cold, but despite the blowing wind, it didn’t freeze last night.

After packing and eating, Boomerang left.
Rockstar and I started hiking around 8.30. We plan to have lunch in town.
It iss a nice hikethat we walked together most of the time.

When we reach Fontana Marina, we decide to walk / hitchhike to the village.
After a descent mile uphill on the road, a pick-up stops and asked us why there are so many people on the road. We explain that we are hiking from Georgia to Maine and we all want to get to the village for resupply.
They offer to take us in the back of the pick-up, and of course we accept.

At the village, boomerang sorts out her food package.
Rockstar and I head to the gas station to grab a hotdog and a beer before going through my food bag and buy what I need to cross the Smokies.
I talk with Boomerang, and we agree to stick together through the National Park. She is planning on stopping at the same shelters as me, so it should work. The others are or behind, or waiting for a parcel here.
Her and I take the shuttle to the Marina and hike to the Fontana Dam shelter.
There, another hiker call me by my name. She recognised me from my article on the Trek.

I pitch my tent as well as I can on the concrete tent spot – why concrete tent sites ???  – and head for a hot shower. I still don’t have a towel, so I use with my shirt and then wash it in the sink. Is that what we call hiker trash ? I believe so.
After that, we have dinner at the picninc table with a beautiful view on the lake.

Time to throw our bear line. I failed miserably, but luckily Meatballs, the hiker who read my articles, come to the rescue.

We are all gathering around the fire now.

It is funny what hikers are always talking about the same four topics : miles, weather, blisters and food.

Alright, time for bed. Tomorrow we will enter the Great Smoky Mountain National Park !

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Comments 1

  • Jingle bells : May 11th

    Oh yeah. The cement at Fontana shelter tent spots. I struggled greatly. Ended up with a bad bug bite that night as a bonus. Thanks for sharing your adventure.


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