Sunday, March 31, 2013
Lake Shore Trail to Newfound Gap
Dam walk to trailhead 0.5
Lake Shore trail to #86 10.5
DAY ONE: 11.0 Miles
Side trip to Lake and back at #86 1.0
Lake Shore trail from #86 to #76 12.3
DAY TWO: 13.3 Miles
Lake Shore trail from #76 to #74 8.9
DAY THREE: 8.9 Miles
Lake Shore trail from #74 to Lake view drive 3.0
Lake view drive 1.1
Noland Creek trail to #61 8.3
DAY FOUR: 12.4
Noland Creek trail #61to Noland Divide 0.9
Noland Divide to Clingmans Dome Road 3.7
Clingmans Dome Road to Newfound Gap Road 5.8
DAY FIVE: 10.4
TOTAL MILES: 56 Miles
Our original plan was to hike the AT from Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap. We found out that the thru hikers were going through now and also the permits were taken for the shelters. Our plan "B" went to the Lakeshore trail starting at Fontana Dam and ending at Newfound Gap by way of Noland and the AT. We almost went to a plan "C" when we found out that all of the roads in the park were closed for snow. Our plan was to have our shuttle meet us at Newfound Gap and drop us off at the Dam. When I called him about the roads being closed, he volunteered to pick us up at Newfound Gap on Sunday.
Lakeshore trail brought back memories from our Father Son Hike in 2005. One memory being the boat trip which we had a shuttle to take it's place. The second being the miscalculation of my brother's mileage which had us do a 13.9 mile last day. So I figured the miles twice to be sure all was well. The third memory is that the name of the trail is misleading. Yes, in general it goes along the side of the lake and that is about it. You are anywhere from 300 to 800 feet above the lake and you do get views of the lake every now and then. There are lots of ups and downs as with any trail in the Smoky's.
There is a lot of history on this trail. When they flooded the valley a lot of people were displaced including whole towns. You get to see a lot of old home sites, cars, chimneys, metal junk, cemeteries, one restored house in the old town of Proctor, and a tunnel. We really thought we would see alot of wild flowers, but we were early for them. The whole trail is 35 miles long and is one of the longest single trails in the National Park. You can section hike it with boat shuttles out of the marina.
We started off this hike with a milage extender. They were working on the dam, so we parked at the far side and hiked across the dam to the trailhead. The trailhead is at a split with the AT. We saw two hikers come up behind us that took the AT. There was snow on the ground, but it was melting pretty fast as the sun was shining on it. We met a group of ten students from Minnesota who were on their Spring Break and were doing an out and back backpack on the trail. That was the last of the people on the trail. We did see two people fishing at campsite 90 which looks like a fisherman's paradise.
We got to see a hawk, a lizard, and two Mallard ducks. The park had some kind of feeder or trap hung in the trees. It was located right next to a small creek in the woods. At the end of one of the hanging ropes I saw something black and white on the ground. Well, when I walked up to it, it stood up. I was looking at the tail end of a Mallard duck. Next to it was a female. That was the last thing I expected out here in the woods.
We got to see a lot of cars, old metal pieces, and old homesites. Our campsite was at the old location of the town of Proctor where they have a restored house. It was a big campground with lots of sites. We had a quite and star filled night. The moon came up and lite the campsite up all night.
We started out the day right or wrong I guess. We headed away from town, but on the wrong trail. We got to see some deer in a clearing and the creek got bigger as we headed toward the lake. We stopped when we saw a bridge way up on the bank of the lake bed. The pylons were in line with our trail which didn't look good for the home team. While Lora was saying "I am not ...." over and over again, I pulled out the map out and found that we had gone the wrong way and we would not be swimming across the river. We turned around and headed back to town. At the bridge next to the sign we took a picture of the night before with information about the town, was a sign pointing the direction that we were supposed to go. Yes, when we passed the deer again, they were rolling on the ground laughing and pointing at us.
We got to see a chipmunk, wood pecker, a hawk, two C130's and a Grouse which scared the bejesus out of us. Yes, two C130 aircraft flying in formation over the lake at low low level. My Dad would be proud!
There were more homesites and our campsite was close to one too. Campsite 76 is a small clearing just on the side of the trail. Another great night.
This part of the trail actually follows the closest to the lake. It was our short day of hiking so we took our time getting going. Lots of homesites in this area. We saw some people in campsite 98 as we went by it. We also saw the first and only boats we were going to see on the lake. Two fishing boats went by that morning.
When we got to our campsite at Forney Creek there was one tent there and a woman by the campfire. We put up our tent and the rain started. We unpacked in the tent and took a nap. The rain stopped so we got up and went over to visit. There were two guys that had been doing some fishing and the woman. They were locals and were out for two nights. After visiting with them we went back and cooked dinner. Later, another tent popped up with another couple. We went back over to the fire and visited with them as well. They were from North Carolina. The original campers had dragged the firewood from a mile and a half up trail where they were fishing. It is a well used campsite!
After we went to bed the rain started back up and it rained all night.
The rain had stopped by the time we got up. We packed up and headed out before anyone else got up. We passed a single backpacker who was just starting out on the Lakeshore trail going the oposite direction. When we got to the tunnel, a family was coming through making as many echo's as they could. The parking area was full. We road hiked down to the Noland Creek trailhead and got a signal to call the park. The recording said that all the roads were now open.
The Nolands Creek trail is road bed up to campsite 64. We stopped there and ate lunch at one of the picnic tables. From there up is regular trail. We got to see more homesites and the bracing for an old water wheel for a powerplant. We had three old fashion foot washings further up the trail and we found a dead owl on the trail. We hit one section that the grass hoppers had hatched out. There were millions of them all about a quarter inch long.
We camped at 61 which is a small campsite right on the trail. We had another wonderful night by the campfire and the rain started just as we went to bed.
We got up to a muddy campsite. It had poured all last night. We got up early wanting to get home a decent time. Surprisingly, it was all uphill to Clingman's Dome. More surprisingly was the more and more snow that we got into. It was a good wet snow with water running under it down the trail. It didn't even make good snow angels as Lora tried to do. She acted like she didn't do it on purpose, but I know she was trying. She got really wet though. The last couple of miles on the Noland Divide trail were a workout and we were tired by the time we got to the Clingman's Dome road.
The thought of hiking the AT from here was dampened by the AT hikers using the road. There was a packed down trail going down the road that had anywhere from three to eight inches depending on where you were. The AT thru hikers were heading to Gatlinburg until the snow melted. We called our ride and told him we were hiking the road. I got some comments about wearing shorts from the thru hikers and people at the end of the road. Our ride was waiting for us when we got there so life was good. We found out the next day that the park service rescued 10 hikers from the AT at Clingman's Dome that same afternoon.
We had wondered if there were any Bald Eagles at Fontana Lake. We even asked our ride when he dropped us off. After we left the dam and crossed the bridge back over the lake we saw a Bald Eagle on the side of the road in a tree. I backed up so we could look at it and it flew to the other side of the lake and landed in a tree with another Bald Eagle. So if anyone was wondering, Yes, there are Bald Eagles on Fontana Lake.