Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Home Backpacking Days 19-22 on The Appalachian Trail

Days 19-22 on The Appalachian Trail

by Staff

From Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap

The Learning Curve, Hard Climbs, and Need To Know Information

As I continue toward Maine as a one person bubble I am gathering information as I go. Not to seek world dominance, just to get through the next part of the hike and perhaps help others.
First, send a resupply box to Fontana Dam with enough food to get you through the Smokies to Davenport Gap. Here is why. As I may have previously mentioned a small mix up with my resupply gave me enough food to get to Newfound Gap where I got a shuttle and resupplied in Gatlinburg and also replaced a mattress pad at REI. Problem, they close the road to Newfound Gap due to weather. For me this was two days in a row. Rather than wait a third day I proceeded to Standing Bear Farm and hiked on. As one of my grandchildren’s birthday is later this spring I will return for that portion of the Smokies. I don’t want to risk traveling back and not being to get on trail. I’ll still post the 100 mile marks as whole and completed for the purpose of continuity. so please bear with me as I wait to return for the last part of the park.
If you choose to purchase at Fontana Dam the markup is astounding. Some items were 175% of usual cost. It is a punch in the budget. There is no other way to stress the resupply issue except for plan or pay, or risk going off trail in Gatlinburg and possibly have issues getting back on trail.

Things That Didn’t Work

NEMO Tensor Pad- failed after 6 uses. The failure occurred on a flat surface in a shelter with a closed cell foam pad underneath.

Coming off trail in the Smokeys

Things That Work

REI
Trolley Service in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
AAA Hiker Service- Mark is a thru hiker, great conversationalist, and his prices should be the standard. Prompt, efficient , professional, and a spotless vehicle.

Day 19 Fontana Dam to Mollie’s Ridge Shelter

My long anticipated walk across Fontana Dam had finally come. I don’t know how many times I watched videos with Taylor #Nahamsha walk across the dam on the way to the Smokies. There was construction going on and it was not as serene as I had imagined, but my eyes welled up a little as I walked across and unfolded my park pass. Walking up into the trees I hesitated a moment before placing the paper into the box. It was more of a dream sequence than a series of conscious motions.

Carb up before you start the climb up to your dreams. It did not take long for the rain to begin as I paced further up. The Smokies, rain? Not much view to be had. I pushed past Shuckstack not realizing I had lost my GG umbrella while negotiating some blow down. Rocky came to my rescue. She had found it and returned it to me at Mollie’s Ridge Shelter where we were the two occupants for the night.

Apparently I was snoring when she approached the shelter. She later commented that the bears would be afraid to come around after hearing me snore at volume. We set our separate tents up in the shelter to discourage the mice which had begun to appear through the walls. The rain continued through the night.

Day 20 Mollie’s Ridge Shelter to Derrick Knob Shelter

I felt rested and consumed a pouch of granola and fruit while listening to the rain. With pack loaded, Rocky and I bid each other adieu and see you soon. Off into the drizzle. Again, no view, just rain and mist. What I could see close up was remarkable on Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain. I made sure there were good photos of these two.

The wind on the peaks is what we call fresh air at high speed back home. Pushing on, I needed to be at the shelter. Somewhere in the mist Clingman’s Dome was waiting for me. As the saying goes, if it was a snake it would have bitten me. Out of the rain and shadows it was there.

As cold and wet as I was that stone hut looked like the Biltmore House. Once again I pitched my tent inside the shelter and ate a few protein bars to prepare and replenish.

Day 21 Derrick Knob Shelter to Clingman’s Dome

Up at daylight I drank a liter of water, brushed my teeth, and had a meal bar breakfast on the go. About mid-morning the rain and mist broke and a view of the mountains was brilliant. I took a picture of one with a cloak of white clouds gathered low and sent it to my wife with the simple caption “An Smoky”. While not grammatically correct it captures the singular view after all of the rain and haze.

The further up in elevation the foliage and plant type changed dramatically to an emerald green forest where faeries and elves might dwell. Truly magical.

 

Walking along the edge of a large rock and down the trail I found myself at a paved road. Left or right?

Left I think. A short ways down I see Clingman’s Dome. I can’t write how I felt. The video version has been posted to my instagram because I can’t find the words to express the emotion. Walking up, the view was just fog. I walked down knowing I have come many years to stand at the 200 mile mark. Don’t mistake tears for weakness.

What daylight there was started to fade quickly and I had no time to get to the shelter. I am not admitting to stealth camping in the park on a flat grassy spot near well-maintained grounds. From whatever location I was sleeping, at approximately 2 a.m I heard the most amazing and beautiful sound. A bull elk bugling in the distance. The sound is unmistakable and has always mesmerized me at home in Montana.The Elk Restoration Program added magic to an already joyous experience.

Day 22 The Last Miles to Newfound Gap

A quick brushing of teeth and gear packing at wherever I was camped led to an approximately 6 mile walk to Newfound Gap.

The rain was once again turned on and when I entered the parking lot people were staring a little at the creature from the mist.

Shuttle arrangements had been made an hour before and my driver spirited me into tow for resupply and a night’s lodging.
I will repeat the caution to carry enough food to get you through the entire park so you don’t get stuck when they close the road.

Final Thoughts

I am thankful that I was born, have seen good times and hard times. I am thankful that this journey is not easy and I struggle with the purpose. I am thankful for the one who loved me first, Mom, and that she is still here and still in my corner. I am thankful for my wife who patched up the pieces as best she could each time I came back from war. I am thankful for family, friends, and community that I need not worry about being loved or understood. It is with this that I will go to bed. In the morning I will look at the sunrise as if I am watching the first Light gathered. And in doing so I am thankful for all of you.

 

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