NOC To Fontana Village

Day 16:

I tossed and turned all night listening to people snore from a couple tents away, so waking up was difficult. I laid in my tent for a while chain smoking cigarettes and regretting the decision to push miles yesterday. Finally, Itchy woke up to and realized that his ear was swollen and throbbing from a bug bite. Luckily (ish), someone in the shelter offered some Benadryl to him. We packed up and spent some time trying to convince ourselves to hike when KitKat rolled into camp. He had an unbelievable pep in his step, and we were still feeling miserable from the day before.
The three of us started the short trek into NOC and arrived shortly after. We were finally reunited with almost the whole trail family. We ate some breakfast, paid outrageous amounts for a small resupply, and then congregated by the river waiting for a couple more hikers of our group. A couple of us went to get beers and came back to find Itchy passed out on a bench. Taking Benadryl before a long day of hiking was not his best idea.
Everyone started to make the dreaded climb out of NOC in hopes of reaching the sassafras gap shelter about 7 miles away. The climb was probably one of the worst yet, but we pushed on and on until our whole group finally made it to the shelter. We all hung around, ate some dinner and went to bed.

Day 17:

We all headed out fairly early that morning and climbed Cheoah Bald right off the bat. The climb wasn’t too bad, and we all took a long KitKat on top of the Bald. Itchy broke out his uke in hopes of being featured in Sprouts videos, and everyone was so entranced by his musical talents that KitKat even burned a huge hole in his pants. He officially looked the most hiker trash of us all. We hung out a while longer just “bullshitting” as Harambe would say and then finally got moving.
We took another KitKat at a water source. We hung around for 2 hours, and Harambe even took a nap. Surprisingly, we got up and kept hiking. A short hike later, and we were at Stecoah Gap.
At this point everyone was sharing a pack of cigarettes, so the only thing we talked about on the hike to the gap was how awesome it would be to have trail magic in the form of cigarettes or sodas. We hung around the gap for a while just hoping that every car that passed was someone coming to give us trail magic. Our prayers were answered when a hostel van pulled up, and out rolled a hiker offering up cigarettes and bananas. It was probably the best trail magic we’ve had so far. The hiker was even nice enough to invite us back to the hostel, but we declined and kept moving forward.
Refreshed and ready to go, we climbed up Jacob’s ladder. For the record, it is not nearly as bad as everyone says. I wouldn’t have even known it was Jacob’s Ladder if one of the trail fam hadn’t told me. Anyways, shortly after, we arrived at Brown fork shelter. We all hung around and decided to make it to Fontana Hilton the next day. We hoped that it wouldn’t rain the next day, so it could be a nice hike into Fontana.

Day 18:

Much to our dismay, we woke up to a rainy day. Getting everything done that morning was definitely much slower than usual. No one wanted to hike out in the rain and wind. However, we finally manned up and started hiking towards Fontana.
Unlike most days, there were no “KitKats” until we reached a shelter. The winds that day were crazy, and we were hustling to get out of the storm. We ate lunch at Cable Gap Shelter and waited for the sun to come out. After quite some time, the sun finally started to peek through the clouds. I have never been more happy to see the sun. It is seriously the best feeling after a rainy, dreary day. The sun was the best motivation to continue our hike. The only thing that was even more motivation was hearing that there was a soda machine and a bathroom right before we hit the Fontana Hilton.
We hiked for what seemed like forever that day. The climb down the mountain and into Fontana was not nearly as bad as other climbs we had done. However, there was a huge pile of downed trees that we had to maneuver over/around. Finally, we hiked into the clearing and found the soda machine that we had heard so much about.
I ran over to that soda machine so fast. Of course, there was nothing but Diet Coke. I hate diet sodas with a burning passion, and I just about knocked over that machine when I found out that was all they had. Harambe and I waited around for a while until Itchy and KitKat caught up. Finally, the whole group was there, so we called up a shuttle and headed into town.
We decided to stay at the Fontana Lodge which was probably one of the best decisions we made on the trail so far. The beds were great, and it didn’t end up being too expensive. We scarfed down some Wildwoody burgers down at the grill, hit up the game room, and headed off to bed.

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