Day 20: Mile 199.6
I’m a little behind on some posts but I figured I’d update on the last few days while I’m still in Gatlinburg before heading out to the trail tomorrow.
Last Friday, we hiked into Fontana Dam which is the town on the edge of the Smokies. It’s a cute, little village type place that has a big lodge, general store and some little shops. We spent the day relaxing, stuffing our faces with food, resupplying and discussing the first leg of the Smokies coming up.
The Fontana shelter was my camp for the night, also officially named the Fontana “Hilton” as it’s supposedly the nicest shelter on the trail.
The shelter had a beautiful location right on the lake, with camping platforms and even a shower/bathroom. The shower was ice cold but I gave it a shot and at least got my hair rinsed out! Going on Day 7 without a shower at that point people so anything will do!
Excited to get into the Smokies, I woke up to catch the sunrise as I crossed over Fontana’s Dam.
As you enter the park, all thru- hikers must rip our park permit in half and drop it in the thru hiker box to start the 8 day time clock to get through the Smokies. Once that’s taken care of, you just start climbing up, and up and up!
The first day in the Smokies was beautiful, with the sun peaking out from the clouds here and there, it made for a great day to hike up to nearly 5,500 ft!
One of the first sights to see was Shuckstack Fire Tower. It’s one of the few towers you can still go inside within the Smokies (although it was a little unsettling how much that rickety tower swayed in the wind!). A beautiful view to see from the tower but definitely wouldn’t recommend it for those afraid of heights.
After the fire tower, it was another 10 miles to our camp for the night. The miles for the day were longer than expected, for a total of 18 miles, but when you get to the first shelter at lunch you never want to just end your day.
The shelter at Spence field was my first shelter experience, mainly because it’s a requirement for everyone to be in shelters within the Smokies, unless full and then thru-hikers get kicked out first to camp. I didn’t mind it too much since people have respected the bear situation and keep food and eating to out of the shelter which decreases mice and other things. Plus, as you read in my previous post, horrible weather was coming so to wake up and not have to pack up a wet tent sounded pretty good.
Day 1 in the Smokies was all in all pretty great, with long miles and no bear encounters thus far. Day 2 however was unpleasant as all get out so let’s hope my return for the second half of the park will be better.
We zeroed in Gatlinburg and resupplied for the next section today. The gang reconnected at breakfast and Chris got to meet some fellow thru-hikers last night and this morning before setting out on the trail with me for the next few days.
If all goes as planned, Chris and I will set out tomorrow to head back out to cross into mile 200, however, as of right now the one main Hwy from Gatlinburg to the trail is closed due to snow. So we will see if it opens tomorrow sometime since evidently they don’t salt or plow down here, it’s just a waiting game! Fingers crossed.