Today was a long day. I started again right at Stecoah Gap. The guide book mentions that this area is the beginning of “Jacob’s Ladder.”
I hate Jacob.
It’s basically a half-mile climb that gains 600′ of elevation. This doesn’t sound outrageous; but, it seems like the last 300′ are straight up. It wasn’t very fun.
After Jacob’s Ladder, the terrain seemed to level out a bit, making my plan to do 14 miles into Fontana Dam seem plausible. I was awaiting a package which included my sleeping pad, a necessity, considering staying in shelters is mandatory in the Smokies. It was supposed to arrive this afternoon, so I needed to make it into town to pick it up and drive on.
The hiking was fairly mundane after Jacob’s Ladder. There were several shelters and campsites I passed en route to this little picnic area out in the woods.
I’m not sure how far I was from Fontana Dam when I got a text from DABS telling me he was staying in the shelter just beyond town. Perfect. I could go pick up my package, jettison any extras, and track him down and hike with him for a few days. By my calculation, I’d be at the intersection in Fontana Dam by around 4:30. The plan was coming together. Excellent.
Insert North Carolina rocks.
The next road I came to was at Yellow Creek gap. It was about six and a half miles from where I needed to be in Fontana Dam. Some folks were gathered at the road having lunch. I said hello and kept going. I wasn’t trying to be rude, I just wanted to make sure I made it to town today. Plus, I wasn’t very hungry. This sign greeted us on the trail on the other side of the road, reminding us of the omnipresent message to leave no trace.
NC HWY 28 was my goal for the day. As noted on the sign, I was still 6.4 miles away. More walking.
A bit down the trail, I got my first glimpse of the dam which marked the goal for today’s journey.
This footbridge was 2.4 miles from today’s destination. It was all downhill from there. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Prior to coming on this trip, I assumed the downhills would be super easy and break up the monotony and pain of all the climbing. It turns out the downhills are almost equally as painful. Fortunately, it just makes you hurt in different places. The combination of ups and downs proves to thoroughly destroy the legs of the budding thru-hiker.
About halfway down the mountain, I was reminded that it was the beginning of Spring. It looked like the entire side of the mountain, at that elevation, had turned green.
I made it to the road at 4:22. I’m starting to get fairly accurate with predicting times based on the guide book’s distances and elevations. When I got there, I was offered a ride up to the lodge where the aforementioned package was waiting. I arrived to find out it wasn’t, in fact, waiting. I checked the tracking information online and it had finally updated. Now it was showing that it would be delivered tomorrow. It was shipped on Tuesday using two day express. I’ve been doing simple math for almost two years, now. Two days from Tuesday is Thursday. The shifty folks at USPS still have it listed as “On-Time,” even though the original delivery date was today. Liars. I’m certain this unreliability has something to do with their potential downfall.
On a lighter note, when I connected to wifi, I received this text from 6’12”
The conversation went on to mention he was planning to make it to Fontana Dam tomorrow. We’ll see how that works out, it was a rough 14 miles and he’d be starting where I did today. I wish him the best. We may end up hiking together, again, because I’m forced to wait here until this package arrives.
The forecast shows thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon and the people at the front desk told me mail usually arrives between 1-4. They can’t narrow it down anymore than that. Looks like I may have an unplanned zero here.
We went down to have dinner and I guess the proverbial “hiker hunger” finally set in. I ordered the mushroom Swiss burger with bacon and some fries. I finished the meal and felt like I hadn’t eaten anything, at all. It was the strangest feeling. The burger was fairly large and it did nothing. I ordered another entree, a pulled pork sandwich along with another side of fries, and that seemed to do the trick. A few ESB’s to wash it all down and it was time to call it a night.
I’m in bed by 9:30 and feel quite content. Hopefully my package will make it tomorrow and I can get back on the trail. I was getting into a decent groove of 13-15 miles a day and feeling good. Hopefully this unplanned zero won’t screw it up.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow will probably be uneventful since I’ll be sitting around all day waiting on a package; but, I’ll do an update, anyways. They have disc golf and miniature golf here. Hopefully that’ll serve to squash the boredom a bit.
Oh yeah, this happened, too: