We are in Cherokee, NC for the day. Since we left off here last week from Bryson City, I’ll catch you up since then. It hasn’t been that long….
We hitched a ride into Bryson City and couldn’t figure out how to get back other than hitching. Then I remembered I knew people who worked for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and knew one of them was in that vicinity so I dropped him an email and he was kind enough to give us a ride back to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Thanks so much Mike if you are reading this!
Luckily that day ended up being very sunny, but we had found out a few days before that the climb out of the NOC was kinda sucky. And it was. Lots of hills and climbing and it was fairly steep. Not a lot of switchbacks, either. The nicest climb of the day was to Cheoah Bald. Beautiful views and a nice place to sit.
We ran into another thru-hiker and two day hikers at the top and made our way down to Locust Cove Gap for the night where a bunch of other people came to tent as well.
Sunday was rainy and very gusty. We climbed down into Stecoah Gap and then back up an un-named hill that was insanely steep with zero switch backs and everyone bitched about once they got to the Brown Fork Shelter. It was a game of “let’s make it to that tree and breathe and then try the next tree and breathe”. Since we were only doing 9 miles that day (killing time to Fontana) we ended up staying for an hour or longer at the shelter to eat lunch and hang out with the hikers that were there. Then we kept on going in the rain and wind to Cody Gap and sat up came for the night. Since we had been dealing with a leaky tent we kept vigilant throughout the late afternoon with the bandanna to keep the water from accumulating inside the tent. Luckily the rain stopped and we came out for dinner.
Monday we awoke to being in the clouds and it was drizzily and crappy the whole day. We had 10 miles to get into Fontana Dam, some downhill, with an annoying uphill in the middle. Sometimes I don’t mind the smaller hills that are called “pointless ups and downs” aka: PUDs, but when you can’t see 200′ in front of you and you think you are done only to go up and down about six or seven of them, it gets frustrating and annoying.
We came into Fontana Dam in the mid afternoon and there were a few people at the “Fontana Hilton”, so called because it sleeps 20 and there is a bathroom and shower nearby (which, btw hasn’t been cleaned since like 1990 and smells awful. Use the toilet, but I’d wear layers to shower.) The Fontana Village is two miles away from the shelter and we had food to eat at the shelter but we started talking about burgers and decided to call the Lodge and see if they had dinner…and they did. So they sent a shuttle down, which picks you up at the top of the hill from the shelter for $3 a person. You should take it.
Loads of people were at the shelter on Monday evening and everyone was heading to the Smokies. Tuesday we hung around at the shelter for the morning and relaxed, drying our tent out and airing our sleeping bags out and then headed up to the general store at Fontana Village to lounge about and then eventually get our maildrop. Everyone was complaining about the size of their boxes, mostly because everyone isn’t eat as much as they thought and because they planned for too much. We ended up cutting our 11 days down to 8 from Fontana to Hot Springs and will be sending the extras to Hot Springs to supplement what we buy there.
We’ve been hiking with a guy named Missionary on occasion and he needed a ride to skip part of the Smokies to meet his wife in a few days so we brought him to Cherokee with us yesterday. This morning we didn’t have a lot to do so we drove the 16 miles to Newfound Gap (kinda splitting the Smokies in half) and now I am much more excited for the Smokies. The northern part is so much different, kinda rocky and a lot more fir trees. Also, while there is some snow and ice, it isn’t all covered like everyone on the Trail seems to be imagining or hearing. Sure, I think the north faces of the higher peaks will have some tricky parts, I think for the most part it will be clear and good. So, now I am much more excited, plus we have almost a week or great weather coming our way. I am ready for sunshine and warmer days!
Let’s see, here are a few people we’ve been hiking with off and on that you can follow if you want:
Walking in Stillness and Do What you Love: these two we ran into at the Fontana General Store…they are crazy fast hikers, doing 20+ miles a day. The guy has done the Triple Crown (PCT, CDT, AT) and they do other long trails. In fact, they started at the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama before starting the AT. When I get time later I plan on reading through their journals for their other hikes.
Anyway, I suppose that sums it up. We’re heading out to the Smokies tomorrow, planning five days to get through them and then three to get to Hot Springs after. A full week, with sun…we should be really smelly by then! Mmm! Actually, the smells aren’t too bad, you get used to yourself after awhile.