Day 22: Dams and Spring Beauties

Lake Views

It was the brightness of the sun that jarred me awake. I figured it must be after 8:00. It was barely after 7:00. The sun hadn’t even risen over the mountains yet and it was still so bright. As the days continue to lengthen, I have a feeling I’ll be hiking sooner and sooner. Hiker midnight will be moved to 8:00 p.m. Already, most everyone is in their tents or sleeping bags by 7:00 anyways.

I did my usual morning routine before sitting at the picnic table to eat and watch the sun rise. The trees were in the way, but it was still very beautiful. Especially since this shelter is right by the lake.

I had plans to resupply in Fontana Dam, but I looked at what I had and figured I had enough for three days. Ramen will be the new oatmeal and lunch will just have to be snacks. I didn’t want to wait around for the shuttle. I also planned on hiking twelve miles and the elevation gain alone was over 4,000 feet. I wanted to start.

Fontana Dam and Road Walking

So I did. The first mile and a half was road walking. Crossing across the dam was sketchy because everything was roped off with signs saying danger. This was the trail, so I continued on. I looked over the edge and immediately felt my vertigo kick in. Nope.

Road walking sucks. The ground is hard on the feet and trekking poles don’t work great. It was a long mile and a half. By the time I got to the trailhead, I was finally in Smoky Mountain National Park. This felt big. Whenever I was planning for this trip, Franklin, Fontana Dam, and the Smokies were the major places for me. I finally hit the last place. I am now starting to feel like I’m actually thru-hiking.

Muscle Pain and Mental Torture

The trail just went up. And up. And up. On a typical day, I don’t get shoulder pain, or if I do, it’s the last few miles. Not this time. It startled right off the bat. My pack was packed the same and I changed none of the straps. If I touched the muscle, it would feel numb, but I would also get shearing pain. It sucked.

Additionally, I tortured myself by constantly checking where I was at on FarOut. One day I will learn not to do that. Today was not the day. Tomorrow doesn’t look any better either.

I ate as much as I could and drank a crap ton of water. By the end of the day, I drank over a gallon of water. Mostly before the Shuckstack Fire Tower. It was a brutal climb towards the end. The actual fire tower was on a spur trail, but I had no energy to continue climbing. I’ve heard that that fire tower has the best views of the Smokies, but I prioritized lunch.

Me, about 200 feet below the fire tower.

Doe Knob

My favorite section of the day was the top of Doe Knob. It was super grassy and there were thousands of Spring Beauties. It was a very peaceful place to be.

These are Spring Beauties. Apparently, they are edible.

Once the uphill started again, I was ready to be done. In fact, I was ready to be done miles ago. I was feeling really tired and just wanted to stop for the night. I stopped by this one guy named Cryptid who was sitting and eating the Spring Beauties. Apparently, his food bag was taken by a trail runner who didn’t realize he was still at camp. He had no food and was foraging. He didn’t seem to mind.

Millies Ridge Shelter

By that point, we had a quarter mile until the shelter. I quickly climbed up the rest of the hill and saw the stone shelter. What’s cool about this one is that it has a chimney and you can make a fire in it. I still didn’t want to stay in it. According to one of the guys there, the trail runners didn’t care if we tented – so long it was on a spot that was already disturbed. I latched onto that. So did everyone else.

I set my tent up and started to make dinner. It was homemade spaghetti with parmesan and garlic flavored croutons. It was great. I was still hungry though and snacked some more. It still wasn’t enough.

Some guys were starting a fire, and I quickly did some backcountry laundry before warming up by the fire. It was nice. The smoke kept following me though. I constantly had to keep moving. I gave up and headed to bed. I fell asleep listening to the hooting of three barn owls.

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Comments 6

  • Roni T : Apr 5th

    I’m enjoying reading about your hike!!!

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

      I appreciate it! Thank you! While it can get tiring writing about the day in so much detail, I will fondly look back on what I did do.

  • BG : Apr 5th

    Congrats on making it into the smokies!

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

      Thank you! It felt like such an accomplishment. It was an uphill greeting though.

  • Jenny Phillips : Apr 12th

    I can’t wait to read more of your journey.

  • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it! It’s fun to write!


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