Miles Hiked: 12.8
Miles Left: 2008.5
Ending Location: Mollies Ridge Shelter
After waking up in a nice bed and enjoying a great breakfast B and I reluctantly headed out to the trail. The first mile seemed like wasted time since we had to hike around a road that lead to the shelter. Once at the shelter we met up with Priest, Three Mile, and Little D who were staying there. After chatting for a bit, (both B and I were glad we stayed at the lodge even though everyone was happy with the shelter), we headed out for Fontana Dam.
I didn’t expect to be impressed by the Dam, but dammmm! That was an impressive hunk of concrete. Fontana Dam is the highest dam east of the Mississippi so they had all sorts of visitor plaques up explaining its history as well as the local wild life of the smokies. The AT actually runs right over the dam and I have to say that was some of the most enjoyable road walking so far.
On entering the Smokies B and I dropped off our permits and started hiking up. Both of us still had our 0-day legs so it was slow going. Luckily the Smokies were experiencing a heat wave so there was no ice/snow and we had been able to ship back our snowshoes the previous day. What was disconcerting was the amount of bear poop on the trail. They certainly aren’t hibernating! That explained why several of the campsites were closed due to all the bear and wild boar activity.
A note about camping in the Smokies: You really can’t do that, (legally). That’s for your own protection. Instead you have to stay in the shelter. As an AT hiker we have a park pass vs shelter reservation so there’s a chance we’ll have to camp regardless if the shelter is full. On the plus side, all the shelters have four AT hiker spots so if you’re one of the first four through hikers you can start getting set up without waiting to see if anyone else with a reservation shows up.
We lucked out and there were only a couple other hikers at Mollies Ridge shelter when we arrived. We rolled in late so that was much appreciated as we ended up cooking our food in the dark and then trying to make the least amount of noise possible inflating our ground mattress, unpacking our sleeping bags, and going to sleep. That’s one of the biggest problems staying at shelters since you really have to be careful not to annoy your fellow hikers.