AT Day 11 – Fontana Dam and The Smokies

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Fontana Dam

26th April 2017

21.3 Miles

Cody Gap (155.7) to Mollies Ridge Shelter (177)

My nightly sleep was interrupted on numerous occasions by the sweet serenade of a couple Bairds Owls. Whoop whooping each other through the forest canopy. On my short couple of days on the Appalachian Trail I’ve been amazed by the peace and quiet on the trail at night despite being so close to so many towns and large cities. It’s a great opportunity for people to come out to the mountains and escape people for a while.

I was awake early with the aim to make it to Fontana Dam and its nearby village. I had some chores to do. I made the several mile hike from my camp to the trailhead at a very speedy pace. The $3 shuttle took me from the trailhead to the village.

Inside the resort hotel in a quiet corner is a computer and printer set aside for hikers to print their Smokie National Park permits. I’d be entering the park in the afternoon and didn’t fancy the $300 fine for not having a printed permit. It seems every hiker prints their permits there.

Next stop was the General Store to resupply. Sitting outside I saw a familiar face, a hiker by the name of Sketchy. I met Sketchy on the Continental Divide Trail last year. We first met in Colorado and last saw each other when about 10 of us hikers crowded into a cabin in the town of Escarpment, Wyoming. She is also hiking the AT as her triple crown hike. She is also making big miles so hopefully we’ll bump into each other again. She departed to the trail and I went to resupply.

The General Store had a good resupply at a reasonable price. I walked out of there with 4 days worth of food which will get me to the other side of The Smokies.

My last stop in town was the restaurant. It was refreshing to be offered a salad with my meal rather than fries. I was given a bowl and freedom at the salad bar. I crammed as much healthy salad into the bowl as would fit before I smothered it with calories in the form of cheese and creamy dressing. The burger they served was more like 2 burgers. My hiker hunger hasn’t really started yet, when it does the All You Can Eat buffets are in trouble.

It was afternoon when I hiked across the Fontana Dam wall. Ever seen the movie ‘The Fugitive’ with Harrison Ford? The Dam might look familiar because it was used in that movie. It’s said to be the highest Dam wall on the eastern states of the country.

The climb started as I entered the Great Smokies National Park. I stopped at a fire tower which had views of the Dam and wilderness almost as far as I could see.

For the rest of the afternoon the trail was empty of people. My camp was Mollee Ridge Hut. It was 7pm when I arrived and there were several tents pitched around the shelter. There are rules in this national park. All hikers must stay in the shelter. If the shelter is full then the hiker can camp, but only if they are an Appalachian Trail hiker. Then if the Appalachian Trail hiker is in the Hut and a non Appalachian Trail hiker arrives, the Appalachian Trail hiker must leave the shelter and camp. Confused?

Turns out the hut wasn’t full when I arrived. People just set up their tents, I assumed it was full so set up my tent. Maybe I should ask next time I arrive at a Hut, I don’t fancy getting a $300 fine.

On a worse note, I found a tick on my arm sucking my blood. It was a small one which I scratched off with my nails. It came off in two parts. I heard it’s the small ones that carry the nasty Lyme Disease. Maybe someone can clarify this for me. I don’t want Lyme disease. If the bite turns into a bullseye style rash I’m going to the nearest clinic to get some medication. I hope it’s nothing to worry about.

eastern box turtle
The Eastern Box Turtle was also hiking the Appalachian Trail
eastern box turtle
fontana dam
Fontana Dam
fontana dam
fontana dam
Fontana Dam wall, ever seen ‘The Fugitive’ with Harrison Ford?
usa flag
fontana dam
The Appalachian Trail crosses the Dam wall before heading to the Smokies
fontana dam
View from the fire tower
fire tower
The rickety steps of the fire tower
fire tower
It was a hot and humid day

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Next : Day 12 – Rain in the Smokies

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  1. I’ve had numerous tick bites and they always create a kind of bulls eye mark. I live in the Sierras and was told there has never been a case of Lyme Disease west of the Rockies so I didn’t freak out.

  2. It’s soft ticks Disease transmission can occur in less than a minute Not all people get the bullseye style rash Most tick bites do not transmit harmful microbes

  3. Keep an eye on the bite for sure and get right on it. Thanks again for sharing your trip. You are fortunate that you hiked with the PCT two years ago as there is no way anyone is going to make it through all the snow this year. Some areas still have 50 feet of snow in May!

    1. Yes I agree, the PCT was easier when I went through. It’s not the depth of the snow that will be the problem this year, it will be the depth and flow of the river crossings that will bring people the trouble.

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