We got on trail late but crushed eight miles in three hours. The legs are moving from gelatin to spring-loaded. Minus three lbs. from my camp chair and microspikes was noticeable. I am catching the lightweight bug. What else can I get rid of next?
We shared the reprieve from the shroud of trees at Siler Bald. The open grass offered a sunny respite. The warmth opened to sweet aroma of a mountain bog. I snoozed for 20 minutes before I endeavored to complete my camp chores.
It’s getting easier, and one thing is clear- the bad days are always punctuated by the good. Honestly the bad days ain’t all that bad if you know how to laugh at em’!
An unforgettable morning! Woke up to the sun, not my alarm. I stirred before anyone, except the Dirty Llama. Once out of camp, alone, I took the half-mile side trail up Siler Bald. The morning sun pierced the clouds and light up the stacks of mountains. I let out a falsetto yell and heard it reverberate for a full 15 seconds. It lingered a bit longer, either in the air or ears.
The trail was relatively smooth, setting us down on Wayah Bald. An old fire tower extended the view beyond the adjunct mountains- there tower the Smokies.
Tonight we made a fire. We filled the pit with hefty branches and asinine conversation. The extended trail family has changed but they still offer an opportunity for closeness among strangers. Probably the last evening respite for some time. A rain is coming.
But… Who gives a shit!? It will or it won’t. I only have control over my interpretation. So… IT’S ALL GOOD!!!
We were up before the sun. It’s first light showed the way to a perfect perch looking East. The Sun peaked over the distant mountain range. Rising it grew in size till it challenged to take over the whole of the sky.
We pushed through the day to another fire tower were we stretched. Joined by our extended tramily, we laughed away the strain. The tall mountains in the background suggested how close the Smokies were to us.
The rest of the day faded away into another nonsensical spiral down a ridge into the NOC. There we drank a beer and talked to the other hikers who rested at the hostel. It felt good to be around our original tramily again.
The late evening hiker back was fun!
We blew into the NOC, bedraggled and ill. I drank to much the night before. It stormed last night too. The storm’s howl helped my head to ring. Eventually, I staggered into the general store and got coffee. Rejuvenation.
After gorging on cheap gas station food and expensive restaurant food we sauntered up. The climb was long. Gaining 10ft for every 100ft took all the breathe and clang Bird antics we could muster.
We made it up and had a nice meal. Yummy! We sleep perched on a ridge… It should offer a decent view for sunrise.
N 35°23.4779′” a
Sunrise was a bust. The cold rain froze to the top of the tents. The warmth of the quilt overpowered any idea of getting up for a false hope of warmth. I got out of camp quickly- cold and bitchy I moved up the mountain.
I was greeted by an awesome view atop whatever Bald. The wind was blocked and sunshine poured into the dark earth. While we warmed up, our crew, now dubbed The Heathens, shared hopeful insights of the past and future.
The day gave us trail magic and a hell of a climb up Jacob’s ladder. But here offered our first intimate gaze at the Smokies. They towered above our 4000ft mountain. The over-drained Fontana Lake gave great contrast to their untamed size.
There has been talk of these mountains- some based on fear, others on awe. But all have a reverence for the Smokie Mountains.
Tomorrow we close the last eight-mile gap between us and those marvels. We do so with hope, inspiration and a lot of whatever the fuck happens, happens.
The trail provides, the dudes abide.
The Hilton (The Fontana Dam Shelter) and a Zero
Every morning into town is easier than the ones deeper into the woods- no matter how bad the day it’ll get better with a warm meal and dry bed. We laughed off the cold and trekked in.
With each mile grew Fontana Lake. At first it was a exciting sight but it slipped into a joke- it incrementally got larger and keep us wondering when we’d get to the shelter. But at first sight of the Dam, we forgot about that night and stood in awe of our love affair for the next week- The Great Smokie Mountains.
That night we stumbled down a hill into a river valley. Scuttled along the steep, shale covered bank. There offered a powerful view of the Smokies. The mounds on mounds of earth reflected in Fontana Lake promised the opportunity to earn something in those mountains.
We set off soon. They’re promising snow, sleet and rain. I’ll have at least one story for you guys when I’m done. Later my friends.
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