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Appalachian Trail... photos and journal

Spring of 2002... In the deep south...


(Page 5 of 10 pages)

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Looking at the magnificent view from atop Cheoah Bald. From here to Stecoah Gap the trail was like riding a roller coaster... up and down over every major and minor bump in the terrain. I would have to consider the section from the Nantahala Gorge to Fontana Dam one of the most difficult.


From my journal (April 23th) Day-7..."Both my knees were throbbing when I went to sleep last night, but I'm always amazed at how much healing takes place during a good nights sleep and I did sleep well. Two 27 mile days back to back in such steep terrain is just too much too soon and I need to give my body more time to build up and to adjust to the trail. I woke up to a nice sunrise atop my little hidden knoll and took an extra hour this morning breaking camp, but was walking north by 7:45a.m. I really took my time and didn't push it knowing that I needed more rest.

Finally down to Highway 28 a kind lady named Ruth in a big RV is waiting on her husband & dog to come down from the trail and after a bit of conversation I realized that I had passed him up on the ridge while taking a nap. When Darryl came down they most graciously offered me a ride into the village and we enjoyed a fine conversation. Although there was a hiker's hostel in the village I went ahead and got a motel room when they offered me a deal that I just couldn't refuse. I picked up my float box at the post office then went to the AYCE dinner buffet which had my digestive molecules dancing with joy!

All that I really wanted to do was just kick back and relax, but I just had too much to do so I spent several evening hours shuffling gear, organizing my new maps, and all that comes with prepping to get back on the trail. Finally at about 8:00p.m. I was done and got to just zone out on the bed without enough energy to manage even a simple phone call back home and so there it was that I drifted into a very good nights rest. "


The road crossing at Stecoah Gap. Just look at that soft lime-green color in those early Appalachian spring leaves!

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The trail north of Stecoah Gap had a dramatic and steep straight-up grade with no switchbacks. Somewhere near the top I came across this note left by another hiker which read, "I want the name and address of the person that built this section of the trail." Another hiker answered the question with, "Satan, Box 1, HELL." I couldn't agree more!

It was a long decline into the Fontana valley and I was able to make out the Fontana Dam with my zoom lens through the thin early spring growth. This scene would be completely blocked by the lush Appalachian growth in just a few more days!

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When I reached Fontana village, I discovered the arrival of my first little blister on the inside of my heel. Welcome to the trail!


The village at Fontana


This building housed the Fontana village store, post offfice, and ice cream shop. I found the village very hiker friendly with reasonable prices and reccomend it for a great hiker stop or just a place to visit while not necessarily hiking the trail.


From my journal (April 24th) Day-8..."I managed to get a very good rest last night and stayed in my room until the last minute packing and resupplying. This was also the first place that I had access to my float box which had a battery recharger for my digital camera plus an AC adapter which allowed me to a slide show of pictures taken so far which was nice to see. The AYCE breakfast buffet on the top floor was excellent so my day was off to a good start

My knees feel so much better now and I was anxious to get moving again so I mailed my float box to Damascus then took the shuttle van back to the dam and began hiking north again. It was a steady incline but not as bad as it was coming out of Wesser. Saw a deer alongside the trail that didn't seem to mind me being there. I stopped at Mollies Ridge Shelter to cook a hot meal then hiked another hour to Russel Field Shelter. Along the way I crossed a National Park ranger who was dressed in full military camo and holding a wicked looking gun, but fortunately he wasn't out to get me and was there hunting wild boars since their population was increasing and they competed for the same foliage as the black bears in the park... or so he said.

Anyhow, there were ten of us sardined up in the shelter tonight including an outdoor recreation class from Canada and it was nice talking to them. My sleeping bag would sure feel good tonight! "


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The trail goes directly across the road on the Fontana Lake Dam and that's the Great Smoky Mountains gleaming to welcome me just on the other side.

Looking down to the dam at the power plant and the exiting stream.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park


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As I mentioned the entrance to the Great Smokies was just across the dam and believe me, the trail took a long incline from this point forward!

Looking back to the dam and lake after gaining a bit of elevation in the Great Smokies.

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Wildlife was quite friendly as demonstrated by this deer right on the trail with no intention of moving or even noticing me.


From my journal (April 25th) Day-9..."A very powerful thunderstorm moved through the mountains last night producing non-stop thunder, lightning, and rain. This had been my first night in a shelter and I'd rather have been on the ground but the park service wants us caged up at night so I didn't tamper with policy. This would have been a great test night for my tarptent but I'm sure there will be many more opportunities before I reach Maine. This morning was very cold and still with a steady rain but I set off hiking anyhow. They clouds were lying low so there were no views as I hiked along the ridge in the cold rain.

About mid-day the clouds lifted and the sun took over but the day still remained so very cold and my Frogg Togg parka was worth more than a pound of gold! I arrived at Double Springs Shelter about 5:00p.m. and still had enough spirit to keep moving but decided to give my knees some more rest while my body was making it's final adjustment to the trail. There are seven of us in the shelter tonight and we were certainly a good group sharing almost too much laughter, jokes, and conversation which was just the medicine that all of our cold, tired bodies needed at the end of one day and the beginning of another. "


Somewhere along this section of trail is where I dug my first batch of ramps which I chopped up and spiced up my evening dinner. I just recently read in the ATC magazine that the collection of ramps has recently been banned inside park boundaries due to a decline in the plant. They seemed prettly plentiful to me.

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Here's what a cluster of ramps looks like before digging, but be sure that you can positively identify the plant because there are other very similar tubers which are poisonous.

This was a short day and I stayed at Double Spring Shelter with a great bunch of folks where there was a lot of fun and laughter.

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