Day 18- 4.8.15
144.0-159.2- hiked 15.2mi today! Our first 15er! Started by finishing the brutal hike up to Cheoah Bald. Great views from the top, so that made it all worth it!
We ran into Shane and Dudley (the cute cocker spaniel) on the way down and they gave Jimi an ace bandage for his knee. Hoping that helps!
Hiking up Cheoah Bald was prob my first moment asking myself at one point, “Why the hell did I sign up for this?!” 9 miles on a steep uphill the whole time was pretty brutal, but the annoying part is looking up thinking you are close to the top, but once you reach that point, you see another uphill. That moment happened at least 20 times, no lie, the mountain was literally playing pranks on me it seemed. Reaching to the summit I saw the most gorgeous mountain view I may have ever seen with mountain peaks poking out of the clouds. I was still angry with the climb while looking at the view though, especially after what it did to my knee.
Took a break at Stecoah Gap. Someone also left a bag of snacks, which we shared with the other hikers. I was eating some partially melted trail mix and Shane said I looked like a 5th grader after lunch! (Chocolate all over my hand and my face haha). Then we realized we were out of water. Had to climb “Jacob’s Ladder” without water! There was a lot of cut wood along the side of the trail, so you could tell they were planning to put in some stairs to help with trail washout, but not started yet! We climbed 45 degree slopes in some areas that would have had us sliding back down, if not for trekking poles. Definitely drank a ton of water at the next source and took a bird bath with the gnats before heading down the trail.
The last 5 or 6 miles were kind of a blur. We called ahead for a room at the lodge so Jimi could rest his knee a bit. Good thing we called at the time, we got the last room! Tented with Ty and Goldilocks on the flattest spots we could find. Someone packed in beer, soda and 2 pizzas from the last gap to share with everyone (about a mile)! I also got my first blister today on my toe.
Day 19 4.9.15
159.2-164.7. Hiked 5.5mi today into Fontana Dam, NC. Definitely waited for the $3 shuttle instead of walking the 2+ miles to the lodge (like I said, hikers are lazy!). As expected, we were the only ones who called ahead for a room and they were all sold out because of some Honda S2000 car get together (not joking, this totally happened). There were over 200 S2000’s, you’d hear them drive by constantly. Goldilocks stayed with us and Brother Ty and Goodfoot stayed in a cabin with Freestyle.
Jimi: Arriving in Fontana is when I realized my knee was getting bad. It puffed up like I got stung by hornets. I’ve never had knee problems, this was very new to me, but I noticed half of the hikers were wearing knee braces too and many said the same thing. That’s when I came to a realization of how rough the Appalachians can be and I haven’t even reached 10% of the hike yet. While doing laundry I needed all my clothes washed, so I just wore my rain kilt and laid out in the sun while waiting. While we were out having food and drinks, I kept ice on the knee all night and everyone kept telling me not to get up, I wasn’t listening well according to them, oops. I’m not good at staying still.
Day 20- 4.10.15
Our first zero day. Jimi’s knee was still pretty swollen and taking a day off was definitely a good idea. It was also Goodfoot’s 29th birthday, so he definitely wanted to stay in town too! We tried to get our room at the lodge for another night, but because of the S2000 group, everything was taken.
We ended up sitting in the lobby of the lodge to use the Internet to update the blog and for Jimi to send the GIS data to Guthook. After that, we went to the general store to meet up with everyone. The porch there is huge and has a bunch of rocking chairs, so it ends up being the hang out spot for everyone doing laundry or waiting for a room. We ended up renting a cabin (basically a small house, not very cabin-like) with Bearded Crab, Goodfoot, Goldilocks and Brother Ty. We went to the general store to get dinner food and they final had a golf cart to rent! Goldilocks and I ended up driving it around the resort and collecting firewood. Super fun to drive around. Also, super weird to drive after walking for so long!
The nice thing about a cabin is the kitchen. We ended up cooking a lot of our ‘mail to Gatlinburg’ food, but there was a lot of food and everyone was happy. We made grilled cheeses and cooked some pasta with tomato bouillon, mixed veggies and lentils. Super cheap, and super filling. We made a fire in the fire pit and played cards. The entire time, it felt like we were at one of our houses, but we were only there for less than a day.
Day 21 4.11.15
Hiked 7.7mi today (164.7-171.4).
Happy birthday to my sister Katie! I actually got to give her a call before we headed out, so that was cool.
Woke up pretty early and made eggs and grits for breakfast. So much easier to cook when you have a kitchen vs a small burner.
Leaving town is always hard. Your body had time to rest, but hiking always seems harder. The general consensus is that your legs feel like lead when you leave town. Every step takes so much more effort! We got dropped off by the marina where we had been picked up two days before. 1.3 mile hike to the first shelter. Honestly, not sure why we decided to stay at Fontana Villiage instead of the shelter (nicknamed the Fontana Hilton). There’s bathrooms, showers, a beach. Looked like there was definitely a party there every night.
Jimi: Getting back on the trail was tough, but at least it was a beautiful day. I was super excited that we were about to step into the Smoky Mountains! Walking by the Fontana Hilton shelter was interesting, you could tell people who camped there overnight had a good time, all the trash cans were slammed full of beer cans and whiskey bottles. The size of the Fontana Dam was quite surprising, I was impressed. Right after getting off the dam, we saw the Smoky Mountain sign! About a mile later we came to the drop box for our Smokies permits. There are a lot of rules in the Smokies and it has more black bears than anywhere else on the trail, glad I won’t have to deal with it too long.
Day 22- 4.12.15
Hiked 11.3mi today (171.4-182.7)
The weather in the Smokies was great so far! The Smokies is in a cloud most of the time and nothing ever dries until you get out of there, definitely lucky on that part. The trail
was pretty rough so far getting up on the ridge, but not as bad as North Carolina. The start of Smokies seemed like any other forest, but once you get to the ridge you start seeing moss and flowers everywhere. It was beautiful and so peaceful to hike through, it was like something you would see in a movie. When we got to the shelter, we already saw a tent pitched up and not a soul was in the shelter yet. The rules are you can’t put your tent up unless the shelter is full, but many people don’t want to sleep in shelters, mostly due to snoring, personal space, and rodent reasons. We decided to break the rules too and set up our tents as well.
Day 23- 4.13.15
Hiked 12.1mi today (182.7-194.8). Spoke too soon about the weather. Woke up wet. On paper, the terrain didn’t look to difficult for today. In real life, it was pretty brutal. We were hiking in the rain, up and down hill, with areas with washed out trail and mud. I also thought my pack was lopsided and pulling on my shoulders. While hiking, I heard a pop in my bag, but couldn’t figure out what caused it. At lunch, I realized it was the stitching that holds the internal stay in place in my backpack. My pack really was lopsided and was pulling on my shoulders (without the stay, the weight in your pack is not distributed to your hip belt). Once we found an area with data service, we got online and bought a pack. We are sending it to Hot Springs, NC. We kept getting and losing service, so it took about a half hour. Naturally, in that time, the temperature dropped, it got super windy and started raining again. I thought the shelter was really close, but it was another 20 or so minutes of hiking. From lunch to the shelter was supposedly 3ish miles and it took us over 3 hours. We got to Silers Bald Shelter around 5:30 and it was already full. We set up in the grass outside the shelter, ate dinner then jumped into the tent. We camped with Goodfoot and Brother Ty. It was like a sleepover with all of our tents all next to each other and talking through the tents because of the rain.