7/15/2018 – 7/17/2018 Stecoah Gap to Fontana Dam
Trail Dame Summit is history! So I rushed to Sylva, North Carolina to meet up with everyone at City Lights Cafe for lunch, then off to the mountains! Highly recommend City Lights Cafe and may need to go back to check out the book store upstairs. They had a few wonderful vegan options…which gives them 5 stars in my book! 😀
The weather forecast indicated possible thunderstorms that evening but we stayed dry until we hit Jacobs Ladder after Sweetwater Gap.
“Oh, hello, North Carolina, I see you waited up for me.”
Sweat soaked us as we laboriously lifted one foot over the other to make slow forward progress. It was up, straight up, and boy, was I glad the rain held off as this was one of THOSE hills! Rain would have felt amazing, but it would have resulted in each step forward being followed by two steps sliding back. Thankfully, it was a short hill, and we quickly finished our big 2.4 mile day to Brown Fork Shelter.
Brown Fork Shelter is a nice shelter. It is up off the ground, seems clean enough, sturdy. In the early morning, I got up and walked toward the privy in the deep fog that had descended on the mountain, beautiful until I almost stepped on a mouse. Then, *quick inhale*, I saw that it was dead. “Oh my gawd” I had glanced around and could not unsee the littering of dead mice as I arrived back at the shelter. Creepier still was the trash bugs were crawling under them to make it appear they were still moving and a huge bullfrog sitting on the side of the shelter looking down on the massacre as if he had ordered it. UGH.
So, I have a question. Do trail maintainers ever put out mouse poison to cull the herd, so to speak? We found the powdered stuff under the back of the shelter. I was livid. Mice eat the poison, bugs eat the mice, birds eat the bugs…you get it. Yes, the mice are sometimes the most annoying opportunists, but humans made this problem. Sloppy humans who left food around. 😦
I took my irritation down the trail with me that day and had to hike it out.
The hike was pleasant as we rolled along the AT to Cable Gap Shelter. Wildflowers lined the trail in places and after getting to the top of one hill we were blessed with a view of the peaks of distant mountains rising above a sea of valley fog. With each breeze, spanish moss lifted and swayed, floating with the wind for just a few seconds before falling back to cling to the bark of its tree. And it was quiet, so quiet. You can hear yourself think up here.
I was apparently fully recovered from the mice massacre when we arrived at Cable Gap since I decided to again sleep in the shelter. The threat of rain was imminent…and I wanted to keep my tent dry for at least one more day. I could feel the stillness, the humidity. I could see the leaves tipping over. Yes, it was only matter time. I got my pad set up just in time to watch the skies open up and dump. Time for a relaxing afternoon in the shelter!
Uncle Charlie, brother of Uncle Charlie, and son of brother of Uncle Charlie came trooping into the shelter area from Fontana Dam about then. These three were a comedy of errors and had us both shaking our heads and laughing. Uncle Charlie had injured his leg early in the day leaving his nephew, son of brother of Uncle Charlie to carry two packs…his own and Uncle Charlie’s. The son wore one on his back and one on his front…
Leave no trace was not part of their dinner plans, apparently. Uncle Charlie dumped his left over stuff on his plate right in front of the shelter… I totally called them out on that! OMG, dead mice and now this! As they headed up the hill to their hammocks, the son asked if he could leave his pack at the shelter (he left it outside on the ground). No problem as long as there is NO FOOD IN IT. He came back in about 15 minutes, sheepishly, and took out a couple of trail bars to hike down to their “bear bag”. Good Lord, still shaking my head!
During the night, something…maybe a possum, maybe a raccoon, or maybe an army of mice turned his pack over scaring the living bejeezus out of me. I turned on my headlamp and shot it out to his pack. The light met with a wall of fog…I saw nothing, but did not sleep particularly well the rest of the night!
I was one sleepy hiker the next morning! No matter, we were headed to Fontana Dam, then to the Hike Inn for a shower and real bed for tonight…I vowed to pop a benedryl.
It was a gorgeous hike into Fontana, but a little demoralizing after we got to the Marina and found we still had about a mile and a half to go. It was hot as Hades down around Fontana Dam and that last mile *whew* the cool waters of Fontana Lake mocked me. I just wanted to jump in, but it was so far downhill!
Lucky for me I had gotten a second wind at the Marina and was charging … well okay, I am not really capable of charging, but anyway, keeping a swift pace to Fontana Dam. Then came the stairs, and the road walk, and it was hot…I got to the Dam and literally sunk to the ground to feel the cool grass. I tore my boots off and let my feet go “ahhhhhh”!!!
I wanted to get a good look at the Smoky Mountains just on the other side of the dam. They were intoxicating and pulled me in. I got up from my shady spot and with my bare feet started across the parking lot. In the middle of the sun blasted lot I broke out into a slight jog, then, dang it! a run for the grass on the other side as I felt the asphalt burning into the underside of my feet, hahaha, flashbacks to my wonder years growing up in Texas!
Yeah, and after I gazed at those lovely Smoky Mountains I had to run back to the other side… 😀 ouch, ouch, ouch…Hike on!