Tuesday, April 5, 2016 8:33 pm
Location: Fontana Dam Shelter (165.9 miles)

Today started off with some relatively uninteresting terrain, leading up to Stecoah Gap. After the gap, a moderate 250 ft elevation gain gave way to the 600 ft gain over 0.6 mi that is "Jacobs Ladder".

View from Stecoah Gap
View from Stecoah Gap

The climb was difficult enough, but I had prepared myself for something far worse that never came. I had misunderstood Beast's comparison of the Ladder to "two of Albert Mountain" as being a rock scramble twice the length of the one on Albert Mountain, which made the climb up worse because I was expecting something far worse lying just beyond the next bend.

Fortunately, that imagined rock scramble never materialized, and the rest of the morning/early afternoon to the Cable Gap shelter was mostly downhill from there. I didn't truly believe that non-existent rock climb didn't really exist until I saw the sign at the gap afterwards pointing to that gap's shelter and Cable Gap (and I was so tired from the uphill it didn't even register to me that that intermediate shelter was what the sign was there for).

Beast and I arrived at Cable Gap before 2 pm, and not really wanting to sit around all afternoon (and also expecting the Sisters to push on to the Fontana Dam shelter to take a zero tomorrow), we decided we'd push on for the extra 6.7 miles to get to the shelter tonight as well. This made for my longest day so far, 18.2 miles.

After one more mile-long uphill, most of the rest of the hike to Fontana Dam was a four mile downhill, losing almost 2000 ft of elevation, and Beast and I arrived separately, around 5.

We had expected to find the sisters here, but they were not, which was somewhat puzzling, since they had a few miles on us from the previous day. Turns out, they got a really late start, after 10:30, and because they had camped out of sight from the road going through Stecoah Gap, we just went right past them without realizing they were there. They wound up getting to Fontana Dam around 5:30ish.

Fontana Dam Shelter is also known as the "Fontana Hilton", due to its amenities. There's a clean water source right next to the shelter, which holds 20 people, plus quite a few more tent sites. There's also a working bathroom with shower (and hot water). And a great view of Fontana Lake. (Though, I'm glad I'm not tenting here, though; most of the tent pads are concrete.)

After dinner, a hiker named Sweet Tea (2012 NOBO) gave out what looked like a gallon of sweet tea to the hikers around the shelter. It tasted great, and made for a tasty "dessert".

Tomorrow, Beast's parents are visiting, so the plan is somewhat vague, but seems to include slackpacking the 1.5 miles to the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with shuttle service back provided by his parents. (It'll be the shortest of neros, but it'll be progress nonetheless.)