A couple of things…

Sorry the blog is so sporadic. The WiFi continues to be sketchy, and WordPress continues to be dodgy. But I continue to hike and document so there are lots of stories to share.

A massive thank you to Sara, Katee, Ronni, Cheryl and Andy who all became Patrons in May. Your support means so much to me and allows me to keep this thing running.

Another massive thank you goes to Packman Pete, Jim and Caroline for sending donations via PayPal, with instructions to use for a meal and a bed that’s exactly what it’s going towards right now!

An extra special thank you to Gus for not only being a Patron but also donating via PayPal. The generosity of people continues to amaze me.

As I said before, the blog is hard to update, but when the WiFi is ok I am managing to get a few videos up on YouTube so go check them out!

Now, on with the show…


Sassafras Gap shelter – The Fontana Hilton (mile 165.3)
21.7 miles
Total miles 174.1

The snoring last night was insane. There were at least half the people in the shelter snoring and the guy one person over from me was by far the loudest. Between them all they had all the different volumes and different pitches and tones covered. I was grateful when it stated raining around midnight and drowned out the snoring a little bit. I woke up several times but but my headphones in and tried to listen to a podcast, which I never got very far through so I must have gone back to sleep quickly every time.

Of course when you’re early to bed then you’re early to rise so there was lots of rustling at around 6 so that’s the signal it’s time to get up. There was some discussion about the snoring and I thought a fight was going to kick off between a couple of the guys but they laughed it out instead.

I had to say bye to Ed this morning, he was planning a 7 mile day to get to a lovely sounding hostel, and although I was tempted I knew I had to put some miles in. He has been a great hiking companion for the last few days – who am I going to get to hang my bear bag now?!

I set off up the hill, it wasn’t raining but the mountains were just in a cloud and the trees were raining occasionally. It was hot and very humid at 7am which didn’t bode well for the rest of the day! I slogged my way up to the top of Cheoah Bald, passing a few people on the way who left before me. Not much to brag about though considering all the people I passed were probably over 60. At the top there were no views at all and the rain was starting to come in. I had my trash bag skirt on which kept me a bit dry from the wet brush but my umbrella was totally useless on this part of the trail. Everything was much more enclosed than it has been and the umbrella just would fit through the trees. Thankfully for me as I descended the rain seemed to ease a little. And I was wet with sweat anyway.

How not to hang a bear bag!

The descent was a bit treacherous as there were big rocks which were super slippery in the wet so on the bits where I though I could make up a bit of time and increase my pace I was actually slowing down. I wondered whether I would be able to make it 20 miles today.

It was mostly downhill to Stecoah Gap, where the sign was all shot up and I stopped there for a quick break with In a Rush and a guy called Mike from San Diego.

Next up was ‘Jacobs Ladder’. A 650ft ascent in half a mile. I really felt that. It was so steep, i was walking about 10 paces and then stopping to catch my breath. There were two switchback near the top and I’ve never been so grateful to see switchbacks! I was sweating absolute buckets and I needed a poo. There is no where to go on this trail, there are always people coming along and the trail is near vertical on both sides so you can’t just pop off the trail. So after some more rolling up and down, where I could pick up the pace other than in the rocky areas, I made it to Cable Gap shelter. I dropped off the kids which was a huge relief and I was so hungry I even managed to eat a packet of tuna, I filled it with the leftover crisp crumbs which were very effective in soaking up the tuna juice so it’s not so gross when it’s in your trash bag. There were three other guys there when I arrived and the were just packing up I didn’t think I would see them again as there was a bit of a climb up from the shelter. The climb was nowhere near as steep as anything else I had done that day so it went quite smoothly, until I nearly stepped on a snake. This big black snake was half lying across the trail.

I made it to the top and the sweat was just pouring out of me. Something stung the back of my hand. It was definitely a sting from a buzzy thing and not a bite. It really hurt at the time but now there is absolutely nothing to show for it. The last bit of the day was a 3 mile descent into Fontana to complete my 20 mile day and I was all on track to make it there by 5:30pm. All day long it just seemed to get hotter and hotter and the sweat was just continuing to pour out of my face.

With about half a mile to go I came across an older couple – Smurf and Daddy Long Legs – filtering water which I though was a strange thing to do when you’re half a mile from civilisation but there you go. I stopped to speak to them for a while and they said they had just let off some fire crackers to scare a bear away. It’s always other people who see the bears. That encounter delayed me a bit and when I got to the marina I ran into In a Rush who said he had been able to resupply at the little shop at the end of the jetty so I went down there only to find they were closed. So I will have to go into Fontana Village to resupply after all. The lady in the shop was just closing up and she phoned for a shuttle for us. Shuttles are advertised at $3 per person but all four of us got in and they didn’t charge us anything.

At the hotel I felt very out of place, a bit like I did in Timberline Lodge in Oregon. It was a very swanky place and the rooms came at a sea my price. Smurf and Daddy Long Legs got the last room anyway. They were really sweet and said we could share the room, but In a Rush had already decided he was heading back to the trail. For me it would have still been 35 bucks for my air mattress on the floor which I thought was a bit much at this stage. I want to save my money for when I feel like I really need to be indoors. So I decided to go back to the trail with In a Rush, but we needed to resupply first. The store is advertised as staying open until 9pm but it’s not, it’s only open until 7pm. It was 6:30 so we rushed down there and I threw a bunch of overpriced junk into my basket. I had saved $6 dollars on the shuttle so I ‘treated’ myself to a mountain house meal.

I also got Twix, skittles, crisps, some tuna and some nutrigrain bars. For now I got a sprite which I drank as the lady was totalling up my shopping. We headed back up to the lodge which was quite a schlep uphill and I was a sweaty mess by the time I got there. I felt like someone had put bricks in my backpack!

All throughout the grounds of the hotel were fancy cars. What I would define as boy racer cars. We found out later there was some kind of car convention going on and they all gather and take pictures and polish their cars.

In a Rush managed to get his smokey permit printed and then the people who picked us up gave us a ride back to the marina, even though shuttles stopped officially at 5pm. But it’s only 2 miles and they were sitting around going nothing so they helped us out.

I had already done 20.3 miles. Rushed around the hotel in search of groceries and been to the marina shop and back which was at least another mile of walking. Now there was another 1.4 to do to get the the shelter. The Fontana Dam Shelter. Also know as the Fontana Hilton. Sleeps 24. Fresh water. Trash cans. Toilets. A shower and outlets.

It is Saturday night and I was fully expecting the shelter to be rammed full and with us arriving late I thought we’d have to pitch tents. It just seems to get hotter and hotter and I was a sweaty dripping mess by the time I arrived. Much to my joy there were only 2 other people there. So we had so much space. A whole corner each! I was so hot I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was just pouring out of my face.

I half set up my stuff and then I had to practically run to the toilet. Things were not good. Fast and loose and gassy. I suddenly didn’t feel too good. I didn’t want to eat anything so I put my food bag with everyone else’s, in the back of the trash bins, and then I had to run to the toilets again. This time I was in there for a while. Definitely don’t feel good. I cannot fart with confidence.

It was starting to get dark now and a girl told me there was a charging strip in the men’s toilet to I’ve stuck my battery pack in there to charge. In the bathroom I had sweat pouring out of me and then I had to put my sleep clothes on. My hiking clothes were too stinky to sleep in and my skin was too dirty so I pulled on the woollen long sleeve top and leggings which felt gross.

When I lay down my legs hurt so much I feared they were going to keep me awake all night. Writing this was a total nightmare. As the only light source around it was attracting all the bugs and I was getting bitten by all the little midges and squashing them on my phone screen. I mush have squashed about 50 before deciding enough was enough.

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