Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AT- Wayah Bald to Fontana Dam

Wayah Bald to Rocky Bald 8 Miles
Rocky Bald to Jump Up 14.2
Jump Up to Brown Fork Gap 11
Brown Fork Gap to Cable Gap 6.1
Cable Gap to Fontana Dam 6.9
Total Miles: 46.2

Well we finally got another five day section of the AT in.  We started back at Wayah Bald where we left off last time.  This time we actually had a view from the tower as last time we were clouded in.  It was around two o'clock when we headed out.  We stopped by the Wayah Bald shelter to check it out and then headed on down the mountain.  We crossed 1397 and started climbing Copper Ridge Bald.  The Cold Spring Shelter is right on the trail.  They have just finished remodeling it and it looks good.  We really appreciate the trail maintainers and volunteer workers.  We climbed up Rocky Bald and took the side trail up the rock to see the views.  Then we hiked down to the campsite just down and on the left with the spring at it.  This was night one right at eight miles in.  We saw some giant grasshoppers, a turkey, and one hiker in this section.  We heard owls that night as we set up camp and were sitting around the campfire.

We got up in the morning knowing that we had 12 miles to make today.  When we got to Tellico Gap we found a couple of trucks with hunters and dogs.  They were hunting bear and as we started up the trail we heard the dogs doing there tracking.  We listened to them for quite some time as there path was heading the same as the trail.  We climbed up to Wesser Bald and climbed the lookout tower.  It was another beautiful 360 degree view.  We had to get a picture of all the moss growing on the trees by the tower.

We stopped for lunch and while we were visiting, I heard a noise in the leaves.  I asked Lora to be quite and we listened as it got closer.  A gray fox walked right up to within ten feet of us.  He stared at us for a while and did the head bob thing.  After he didn't get anything out of us, he turned around and went back down the side of the mountain.

After lunch we came to the "Jump up" or boulder outcropping that had a great view of the valley below.  We passed a father with two sons doing a backpack.  We continued the steep descent down to the NOC.  We saw a building that was right off the trail which we first thought was a shelter and then decided that maybe it was a fancy hunting blind.  Later on down the trail we found the Rufus Morgan Shelter.  When we got to the NOC we were tired of going downhill.  The NOC is seasonal so the store and restaurant is the only businesses open in the winter.  We were going to use the restroom facilities across the river but we found those locked as well.  We crossed the railroad tracks and start the climb out of the river gorge.  This is when we thought about the water that we were going to get at the NOC.  Well, we counted on the spring at the campground before Grassy Gap.

We passed another couple hiking the other direction.  The lady had sprained her ankle and was hopping slowly down the trail.  Not a good day for her.

When we got to the campground we realized that there was no water.  Our next choice was to keep going until we found some.  We finally found a spring coming out of a rock area across the trail.  We filled up and then the hunt was on for a flat spot with our headlamps on.  After we climbed the "Jump Up" there was a flat spot next to the trail and we called it a night.  Our twelve mile day had turned into a fourteen mile day.  No fire, just rest tonight.

We slept in this morning.  We had cut our eight mile hike today down to six miles so we slowly got ready and climbed toward Cheoah Bald.  We stopped at the Sassafras Gap shelter and filled our water up.  Cheoah Bald, the last time I was up here with Dad and Steve was a beautiful cloud.  This time you could see for miles and miles.  The sun was shining and the views were wonderful.  We took us a good rest before we descended to Locust Cove Gap.  We passed some more bear hunters and their dogs.

It was lunch time now so we studied the map and trail descriptions.  We were feeling good and there was a piped spring at Stecoah Gap.  It would only be an eight mile day, nine if we went to the next level spot.  Off we went!

After the major descent into Stecoah Gap we were pretty much tired out.  We went in search of our piped spring.  We searched and searched to no avail.  Finally we broke out the map and found the 2.5 miles to Brown Fork Gap shelter the next water.  We started the climb and came across two backpackers coming down the trail drinking beer.  Wow, they are good!  After talking to them, they told us there was beer just ahead on the side of the trail.  No, I did not run Lora over......it was more of a push.  After my beautiful wonderful beer, I was in happy land hiking up the trail wondering why Lora was not so happy.

There is one hell of climb to get up to Brown Fork  from Sweetwater Gap.  It was killer after a long day.  We got into the shelter just as it got dark enough to use a headlamp.  Our short day had now been eleven miles.  We did a campfire and watched the shooting stars for a while before bed.  

We slept in and then enjoyed breakfast around the fire.  We packed up and hiked about three miles then took a break at Cody Gap.  After a short nap we continued our hike.  We stopped for lunch and if someone would have hiked by us he would have though that we were in a wreck.  Our shoes were off, our packs scattered, and we were laying by the trail fast asleep.  The last couple of days had caught up to us.  We only had six miles to do today to get back on our schedule so we took advantage of it.

Cable Gap shelter kind of sneaks up on you.  Your walking the side of a mountain and all of the sudden there it is.  We set up camp, gathered wood, and collected water.  It wasn't long before we had a fire going, dinner done, and watched the stars come out.  We slept well again, except for the one visitor that got my full attention in the middle of the night.  I heard it coming from the shelter and walk around the tent.  It walked away for a few steps and then nothing.  I listened and listened.  I knew I needed to use the bathroom now, but I waited.  Finally I unzipped the tent to find that it was gone and we were all alone.  It had to be a bear with as heavy and loud it was walking.

This was our final day.  We had 6.9 miles to Fontana Dam.  Another beautiful morning and a hiking we went.  I did have to make contact with our shuttle as there was no service last night.  After a few different attempts, I finally got to leave a message for them.

Somewhere before Walker Gap we came across a thru hiker.  As he was talking he said that he had got caught in the Smoky's in a snow storm.  Lora of course said that she had read in the news paper where a hiker had to be rescued by helicopter from the AT and he said yes, that was him.  Solo has a journal that you must read of his survival in the shelter.  He went to sleep in the shelter to wake up to over four feet of snow when hurricane Sandy went through.  Check out his link!  He was now finishing the trail with two very injured feet and with a very positive attitude.

We began the long decent down to Fontana Lake.  By the time we got to the bottom the knees and feet were hurting a bit.  Another mile and a half and we made it to the dam where Mom and Dad were waiting for us.

We did a late lunch at the NOC and then they took us to our car.  We walked back out to the tower so that they too could see the view that they missed the last trip.


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