Day 21: Photo Shoots and Fontana Lake

The Morning Routine

I woke up feeling much better than the day previously and was quick to clean up and head to the lodge. Everyone heading to Stecoah Gap agreed upon 8:30 and I arrived about ten minutes before to eat and cash out.

Right before I was to head out, somebody mentioned that another hiker had too much food and dumped a good amount in the hiker box. All of it was expensive dehydrated meals. I grabbed a few so I wouldn’t need to spend as much money in Fontana Dam – my next planned resupply point.

Photo Shoots

I put my stuff in the vehicle and went to do the parting photo that Scott and Wendi enjoy taking of every thru-hiker that has visited. Wendi asked if she could join in, and I said yes. She then asked if I was a hugger and I said yes again. We hugged before taking a photo. I’m glad she asked because I was going to later if she didn’t.

Wendi and I taking a photo. Photograph credit: Scott

Staying at Gorgeous Stays didn’t ever feel like a transaction. For the brief time I was there, I got to know a little bit about Scott and Wendi and their family. I had such genuine discussions with each of them and will miss being able to further that conversation. They really went out of their way for me. Wendi drove an hour round trip because I was hoping to get soap from my favorite art place. I have a feeling I will go down in history as the crazy hiker who bought nineteen bars of soap. Scott really pampered me with the chiropractor stuff and his methods for helping the immune system for when I was feeling unwell. Em and I had a great conversation about ranger-y stuff and things to do in North Carolina. Owen, who has a passion for drawing and getting hikers to sing songs from his favorite artist. And Honey, the golden retriever who will sleep on top of my shoes and ferociously bark and hunt down the UPS driver demanding treats. In that short time, they were like a second family. Thank you!

The Big Up

The drive to Stecoah Gap was filled with conversation about fishing. I automatically tuned out. I merely watching the road construction take place. We arrived and Scott and I hugged on last time before he jumped back in the van and took off.

Now, here comes the hike. It started off gradual for the first half mile before sharply veering up. What a wakeup call. I did not enjoy that section. In fact, it wiped me out so completely that I had to sit down and eat once it was done.

This photo does not do the steepness of the trail justice.

I continued on but had to eat some more because apparently 600 calories of beef jerky and cheese wasn’t enough. I had some crackers.

Tree Markers

The day was a beautiful one with the sky clear and the sun out. While staying at Gorgeous Stays, Scott told me that there are tree markers everywhere on the trail. From my understanding, tree markers are purposefully shaped trees created by tribes living in the area for hundreds and hundreds of years to signify a trail, water source, an important person’s burial site, etc. They typically branch off the trunk of a tree in an unnatural way before making a 90 degree turn up. I spent a good chunk of the day looking for them. I think I may have found two. It’s cool to look out for.

Scott told me that because the tree reconnected to the ground, it signified an important person’s burial site. This marker is an older one.

Change of Plans

Camping-wise, I planned on a disperse campsite near a water source a few miles from Fontana Dam. I arrived and while everything checked out, I felt like I could still continue. I checked to see how far the Fontana Dam Shelter (aka Fontana Hilton with its shower and electricity) was and it was 3.7 miles away. I made sure there were camp sites.

An amusing sign at the dispersed campsite I was planning on staying at.

Period Talk

I continued on. I was in the midst of listening to the newest Backpacker Radio episode and may have realized that why I was feeling unwell the day prior was because I was about to start my period. I take a form of birth control and it messes with my hormones on a good day. Before hiking, I had no idea how the extreme stress on my body would impact my period. It’s still a learning process. I wasn’t expecting it because none of my usual tells were showing. Love that.

I Want a Beer

By the time I got to the marina, I was done. I had a headache and just wanted to devour some food. I had a mile left and I, for some reason, believed that it was road walking. Nope. Back into the trees I go. I walked very quickly.

Once I saw the shelter, I was in relief. I walked to the building to see if anyone was familiar and only saw Sweet Relish. He said that he got trail magic and asked if I wanted any chips. I said that I could go for some alcohol. “I’ve got that too!” He handed me a can of beer. I said my thanks and went to set up my tent.

Every tent pad was concrete. That doesn’t bode well with trekking pole tents. I made do. I got three corners staked down with just one being held by rocks. I started on some food and snacked while I waited. I was hungry.

Wrapping Up

The sun was beginning to set, so once I finished dinner, I went to take a shower and wash some underwear and socks. The socks dripped dark brown with the amount of dirt in them. Gross.

A nice view of Fontana Lake from my tent site.

I brushed my teeth by the sink and headed back to my tent. Most everyone was sleeping with their food. That’s a huge no-no. Never do that. I shoved my food in the backside of the bear resistant trashcan. My food may smell like trash, but at least the bears won’t get it. I was asleep soon after.

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Comments 4

  • Richard : Apr 4th

    I am enjoying your posts. I like your attitude.

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

      Thank you! I feel like sarcasm and sass will get me to the end.

  • Just Steve (Hey Google) : Apr 5th

    Ah, bear-resistant trash can as a bear box alternative. Pro tip? Maybe? 🙂 I’ll have to remember that one. I’m enjoying hiking vicariously with you the sections I’m missing as I heal… You so got this!

  • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

    You get creative when the alternative is doing a bear hang. I hate doing them. I hope the healing process is going well and I hope to see you out on trail later this year!


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