I managed to get a decent night of sleep in the spider cave. I heard Small mouse noises but no pack chewing or running over my head. Apparently it rained for about 5 minutes all night, so we could have tented, but that’s fine.
I was the first to crawl out of my sleeping bag and head to the privy. Then i retrieved my food bag and proceeded to get my hands filthy wrapping up the line. By the time I did all of that the others were up ad moving. I had breakfast sitting on the fire pit again. Decided to eat a tiny bit extra in the form of Fritos and peanut butter because a cliff bar really isn’t enough to start the day with. A Pileated woodpecker swept through the canopy out of sight and cackled as it circled. We were all ready to go the same time and stood there with our hiking poles in hand but no one making a move to head up the trail. I nominated Josh to be first. Then came me, Sunny and Jess. Josh immediately pulled away while I felt as if I was walking backwards uphill. The air was heavy And it was difficult to breathe. Within the first few steps my quads started to burn. The trail was took us up a gradual climb with long switchbacks that caused us all to space out to our respective paces. Jess pulled in front of sunny while I maintained second position. You can just make out Josh in the thick leaf cover of the second picture.
The climb finally eased up to a relieving flat stretch. It was overcast and felt as if it could rain at any moment but the temperature was warm so it wouldn’t be the worst if it did rain. The trail was lined with patches of ferns and berry bushes. I past this giant downed tree and then continued on the roller coaster that would be today’s trip into Fontana dam.
When Jess dropped back enough to be out of sight, I felt l like I could actually slowdown to pay attention to what was around me. When there’s anyone besides Oakland behind me, I feel like my vision narrows to just my feet and my poles and the 10 feet ahead of me. I could hear the work of woodpeckers Far off to my left and I stepped over what might have been bear scratches crossing over the trail.
I eventually came to a Rocky overgrown ridge with Virginia creeper living up to its name as it closed in on the trail. Around 9am, the sun decided to make an appearance and brightened up the woods a bit. I’m surrounded by mountains but they’re harder to see because the leaves are filled in.
Ran into Josh taking a mini break commented on how many more miles we have until the damn. I let him go ahead of me because he’s speed racer today. The trail took a consistent downward slope taking my phone service with it. It shortly evened out to a sunny green path with a sweet smell while the humidity continued to rise.
I came to a small campsite next to the slow-moving stream with two eroding logs serving as a foot bridge. Then the trail took a left and follow along the stream for few Hundred yards. I Crossed over a louder stream and continued to wind around With the sound of water quickly fading behind me.
The woods opened back up again, which felt good in terms of airflow. I’m not sure my breakfast was big enough because I was already relatively hungry and I had yet to reach my 4 mile snack break. My right foot caught a root, stretching a the muscles in the front of my ankle more than I wanted, but with no real repercussions. I Found a flat spot with a log and magical phone signal, so I decided to stop for a snack and a call to Oakland. Sunny and Jess showed up right as I was about to dial so I politely waited. They also decided to make a small break spot out of it, so i Hung out with them for couple minutes and then decided to try to walk and talk with oakland on the phone. That worked for about four minutes before my service completely kicked it as I lost elevation. Jess passed me as I stood in the trail saying goodbye to Oakland because moving made my wisp of a signal completely drop out. Then I found myself in between Jess and sunny. We were spaced out of sight of each other, but close enough to occasionally hear the clacking of poles.
The trail got bit rocky for a couple of minutes but then settled down to a nice hard packed dirt that continued to drop in elevation as we headed towards a parking lot. I stepped over bits of neon tulip tree blossoms as I daydreamed about buying salad fixings and bananas and yogurt in town. I don’t know that they will take us to the grocery store without charging for the shuttle, but one can hope.
I Stopped to eat a snack at a dirt road crossing after going downhill for what felt like forever. Sunny and Jess were right behind me and also took the opportunity to eat a snack. We all griped about our own special pains because of the consistent drop in elevation. I Let them head out first and took a quick Pee break. Based on how everyone is moving, I feel confident I’ll be able to catch up at some point. Today is Sunny’s last day. She’s Ending her hike when she crosses over fontana damn.
Not long after the dirt road, I walked Through a Marina parking lot and ran into Jess and sunny staring at a sign by the trail head. There was a small sign and a set of hiking boots full of pebbles. The sign asked hikers to take a Pebble from the boots that belonged to a man who died of pancreatic cancer before he could go on his own hike. That hit a little Close to home given the circumstances of Tuesday, so I picked up a pebble and put it in my hip Pocket.
The trail then went Up a short hill that we all whined about because, as expected, it went right back down. We wandered around through a dry Pine Forest passing the occasional rangy mountain Laurel. For a split second, I saw a warbler with a yellow mask, but it flew away before I could really take in the full color scheme. The internet tells me I might have seen a hooded warbler, which is like the inverse color scheme of the common yellowthroat. Whatever it was, it was beautiful.
We followed what felt like a series of twists and turns in a square mile, stopping to gawk at the view of the lake.
We finally popped out to a road that ran next to the Fontana Hilton. It’s called that because there are showers and a water fountain up the hill and there’s a picnic area next to the shelter.
We saw a set of stairs and all gaped at whether we would have to climb the stairs. A little phone checking made it seem like we should follow the road so we took that option.
A half mile and many groans later, we reached the Fontana dam visitor center which was a ghost town. The main building was open but the gift shop (with the ice cream freezer) was sadly closed. We ran into Josh who had been there for a while reading the plaques. We asked a passing man to take our picture. Sunny said her potential goodbye and walked across the dam. Her mom and stepdad are meeting her here but she doesn’t know exactly where so she might be back at the visitor center waiting for them. Josh, jess and I then hobbled down the stairs to hang out in the shade. I got a sprite from a vending machine, put my pack in the sun to start the process of drying out the straps (where the smell originates), and proceeded to house half a bag of Doritos with a little help from josh and Jess.
Sunny’s mom showed up around 12:50. I could hear her dog barking with enthusiasm at the sight of her. Sunny came through the parking area with her dog and her family. I couldn’t get a great picture because the dogs were antsy, but here’s one of the mediocre ones:
We all stood around until the man from creekside arrived to pick up Jess and me. We both happened to make reservations for the same place today and tomorrow. Once we survived the very serpentine drive to the creekside inn, we were greeted by a handful of adorable and chatty dogs.
We were shown to our respective private rooms and proceeded to collect our laundry in one basket to combine for one load. We were given robes to wear during this process, so after I took a nice long hot shower, I sat on the front porch in a robe and was periodically visited by this adorable face:
I did not love sitting around naked in a robe for hours on end but the clean clothes were worth it. I attempted to work on the blog which was easier said than done with the lack of privacy other than my room. I wanted to be outside but whenever i sat in a common space someone would try to talk to me.
We had dinner with Cynthia, Jeff, and a section hiker who had a lot of opinions that drove me up a wall. Cynthia made salmon with roasted vegetables in an Asian marinade and thickly cut bread toasted with cheese. So good. after dinner I went back to being a blog zombie and eventually attempted a FaceTime call with Oakland over the WiFi. The signal was weak but we managed the delay and the loss of video for awhile before calling it a night. I’m finishing this to the sound of the creek rushing out front and bugs buzzing around me because there aren’t any screens on the windows.
Mile 159.2 to mile 166.3 (7.1)
Total miles: 174.7
Creature feature: sadly I can’t remember much about this day in terms of wildlife