SIDEQUEST…And Then on to Fontana Dam


The plan was to return to trail and do a 7 mile segment that included a portion known as Jacob’s Ladder. Instead when I woke up at 4 am to pee, Caroline started saying things like I’m so glad you are awake, if we get a car and drive six hours we can catch the eclipse. I told her to book whatever, I’m going back to sleep. When I woke up we had a frantic rush to line up a shuttle to get back to Franklin to get our rental car. But we made it, and drove the Dragon. And the trip to see the eclipse turned out to be more like 10.5 hour drive. Each way.

Regarding “The Dragon,” US 129.  Caroline and I were innocently driving through rural North Carolina, and passed into Tennessee. Which was also rural, but somehow we found ourselves on the Dragon 🐉. Which apparently is the place to come race your loud obnoxious sports car the eleven extremely curvy miles back and forth while people line up on the side of the road to take pictures to sell, or take a break to pop their hood and show off their car, or just spectate this bizarre phenomenon. There’s a whole local economy built up, with stores and bars and tourist traps. And these two hikers in our rented Nissan Altima just trying to get to Missouri to see the eclipse and driving carefully under the speed limit on this curvy ass road definitely annoyed a bunch of the wannabe NASCAR drivers. As did the state trooper that showed up and started pulling people over .

AT day 27


AT day 28

Eclipse in Atkins, Arkansas with four minutes and 16 seconds of totality.  It was amazing, and felt like ten seconds.  And then more driving.

AT day 29

After a whirlwind trip to see the eclipse we got back to Franklin, NC, a town 40 miles behind us on the trail. It was really rainy, so we decided to take the town day and do laundry.

AT day 30

Shuttled back to Stecoah Gap. Road construction meant a detour to the trail, and it was steep, wet, and very slick. I have no idea how neither of us fell. I was pleasantly surprised that after a few days off, I felt good, and the Jacob’s Ladder ascent I had been dreading went fairly easy. Forager unfortunately had a harder time of it, and when we got to Cable Gap shelter and found no cell service, I couldn’t talk her into doing another five miles. We squeezed into the shelter, and maybe it was my new sleeping pad but I had a great night’s sleep.

Has our first snake sighting today. Forager found morel mushrooms, and cooked them in butter for dinner.

AT day 31

Woke up knowing the forecast called for rain, and I thought the plan was to remain at the shelter. Which I was not looking forward to, because no cell service. Everyone else set off, while we sat around trying to decide. Finally headed out around 10 am. The trail was very slick, and I had one fall, but my backpack took most of the impact. I just got wet and muddy.
Today was the day I found out I don’t like my rain gear. It was too warm, and I felt like I was sous vide. And every time I took it off, it would start raining again. Saw a couple guys walk by using umbrellas, which I had considered and ruled out. But, I’ve changed my mind and will be making that switch.
We got to Fontana Marina and planned to take the shuttle to the village and get a room. But the shuttle driver let us know it was all booked full. We decided to hike on to the shelter, known as the Fontana Hilton. It’s big, on a lovely lake, and has actual restrooms and a shower! And the shelter was full. We pitched our tents for the night.
Ran into Lee and Cujo who we haven’t seen in awhile. Lee told us that a guy is here hiking with his daughter, and has a rental car and is running hikers around for resupply. And he is leaving in the morning to drive home to Florida. My trail ends here at Fontana for now, as I need to go home for a couple weeks. Adam, aka Vulcan, is kindly dropping me off at the Asheville airport on his way home, and it’s amazing how that just came together.
Current mileage: 166

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Comments 1

  • jingle bells : Apr 30th

    fwiw, it’s actually called Tail of the Dragon. It’s literally one of the best places in the entire world to drive a sports car or motor cycle due to the smooth pavement, relentless turns over such a long stretch, and of course the gorgeous mountain views where it lives. It’s world famous in the sports/driving enthusiast circles. Looks like your day 27 of driving thru the Dragon was a Sunday(?), i.e. the day before the eclipse. I’ve never seen a state trooper/law enforcement on the Dragon as I’ve only ever went in the middle of the week to avoid the crowding/enforcement that you witnessed (presumably) on a Sunday.


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