I know you have heard them say, “It’s all downhill from here.” If you’re on the Appalachian Trail don’t ever believe it, even if the map looks like it goes that way. I am another 55 miles up and down the trail and stopped yesterday at the Fontana Village Resort for my third zero day. According to the the ATC Data Companion, the village was constructed in 1946, for TVA workers building Fontana Dam. Many of the original buildings are still in use by the resort. We are enjoying the comfort of the lodge and taking advantage of the massage therapist this afternoon.
About the ATC Data Companion: one must remember that the “gap” elevations are listed, but not the elevation of most of the mountains that lie between the gaps. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me when I was doing my daily mileage planning. It hit me somewhere along the way up one of the 3,000 foot elevation gains this past week. Oh, I’m sure it occurred to me at some point, but the tiredness of the body depletes the oxygen level of the brain and I soon forget.
I have been the lucky recipient of beer trail magic twice since Saturday the 31st. The first beer was a real winner! Magic Hat #9 was the absolutely best beer and was shared by a friendly group enjoying the view, on my first day back on the trail, at the Wayah Bald Observatory. (click to see photo). The next time was at Tellico Gap. A couple of families were picnicing before thier climb up to see the 360 degree views at the Wesser Bald Observatory, which were gorgeous. I think they heard me mention cold beer, as in “I wish I had a cold beer,” and then asked if we wanted one. Oh yeah! It was cold and refreshing and helped me right up the 1.4 miles to the top. It’s the little things in life that top off a perfect day on the AT.
The Fontana Dam lies at the southern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and we will enter the seventy mile stretch of the AT, within the park, in the morning. There are 11 shelters within the park and we hope to stay at three of them before getting off at Newfound Gap and hitting Gatlinburg for a resupply and rest break after climbing Clingman’s Dome, 6,643 ft elevation. We will be passing the 200 mile mark before heading in to Gatlinburg, which is a good excuse for a celebration.
Big excitement and a first for me on the trail. My partner and I got separated when it started raining and I ended up camping alone at Cody Gap. I was soaked to the skin from my 2.5 mile dash in the rain, but was fortunate that the rain slowed down to a dribble when I got to camp and was able to set up my tent, stow my gear and hang my bear bags before it started to rain again in earnest. My Big Agnes UL 2 was perfect and kept me warm and dry all night long.
Time has taken on a totally different dimension for me while hiking the AT. I will be hiking along, sometimes singing a silly song, and time passes quickly by. I may stop for a break or to take a picture and find that I have been hiking for four hours later and I am more than half way done with my hiking day. Hiking in the rain, like I did the day before yesterday, speeds time even faster. I have yet to experience any slowing down of time. I can hardly believe that I have been on the trail for close to 3 weeks already.
One last note, spring has been blooming before my very eyes. I know that when I return to the trail tomorrow it will be even greener and there will be more wild flowers blanketing the forest floor.