Saturday, June 14, 2008

Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam

June 14, Saturday

Getting up after a late night wasn't too difficult. We were excited to get going and had about 6+ miles to hike. Granted it was going to be up to 3680 thousand feet. We made it the trail head at Fontana Dam and had a lovely morning hike, pacing ourselves and having a look at all the flora and fauna.
It threatened to rain most of the day. We watched the thunderhead clouds moving just out of reach through the trees. There were mainly just trail and trees and a few vistas. Later in the afternoon it started to rain fairly steady. We weren't to concerned because we weren't getting cold and our packs were covered. My back was very light. Since I hadn't backpacked for at least 4 years I did my best to make sure the pack was maybe 30 pounds. There was only a few extras...I did bring my ipod but no book. I didn't have a water filter, I was going to use the tablets to purify the water, just for a couple of days. There were PJ's but no change of clothing. I always bring my fleece jacket because in the mountains, after dark, I'm usually cold. Three days of food included peanut butter, bagels, noodles, rice, gatorade, breakfast bars and dried fruit.

Four of the party were trekking up to the Birch Spring Gap Shelter (campsite 113). When you backpack into the Smokies you must have reservations and register to camp. They only allow a few campers at each location and I was unable to stay with the others. I was assigned to campsite 91, which took me off the Appalachian trail about a mile. I discovered that it was the Lost Cove Trail which follows along the Benton MacKaye Trail. The rain slacked off a little and it's nearing 5pm when I have to veer off, by myself, on to a misty side trail. Hmmm...I'm okay with this, right? I'd had such a good day, I was feeling pretty good. I waved good-bye, calling cheerfully I would see them tomorrow.

And then it started to rain again and harder. Wait, I was traveling....down hill? You know what happens when you go down? Yes, in the morning I would have to retrace my steps back UP the mountain. Slipping and sliding down the slippery slope that seemed to go on forever. Really it was more like 1.5 miles than 1 mile to the campsite. On the beach 1 mile takes me 20 minutes or less. It took me two hours to get to the campsite. It did finally stop raining and I had plenty of fresh babbling water to drink and traverse. The campsite was lovely but there wasn't anyone else there. I was all alone, with bear cables. Well, at least I didn't have to try my hand at finding a good limb and use my non-existent throwing arm, achieve a perfect throw 25 feet up. Luckily the sign on the left was NOT near my campsite, but it felt as though I could have a furry visitor at any moment.

I set up my hammock tent and arranged my area. A small brightly colored snake stuck it's head out from under a rock on which I had perched my backpack, and then retreated to clear out of my way. I made dinner of rice and some fruit, stowed everything into the backpack and hung it from the bear cable, all before sunset.

My hammock tent is comfortable, just not too roomy. I listened to my ipod, relaxing into sleep, listening for rain and rustling in the bushes.

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