Day 145 – 146: Into the Smokies

Day 145 – Heading for Mile 1166.7 + 177.0: Woke up in the wonderful Fontana Hilton Hotel (I mean shelter) with the other 15 who slept in the shelter and about 20 people who tented, and decided to walk with Wolf Girl to Fontana Resort for breakfast because we didn’t want to wait for the 8:30am shuttle. About a mile into the walk, it started raining (it was forecasted to rain all morning until 1pm), but we got a hitch with Rick (pictured). He was a local from Fontana and in his words “The fishing holes were flooded so I’m gonna go get me a beer.” I was a little skeptical of the passenger door staying shut as we rounded those left bends😳

Fontana Resort breakfast later, laundry done and waiting out the last line of rain to pass before heading into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park! Signal is supposed to be spotty so you may not hear from me for a week😎🌅🙌Over and out!
After the last line of rain went by, headed into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park 🐻!!! 

Crossed Fontana Dam (at 470 feet, highest dam wall east of Rocky Mountains), and climbed from 1700ft to 4583ft at Mollie’s Ridge Shelter. Made a stop on Shuckstack Firetower (this video and the recommendation of Bruce Werner – thanks Bruce🙌) and pulled into camp at 8:30pm. 

Shelter was full (only after the shelters are full are you allowed to camp in the Smokies). Dropped my pack, hung my food bag on the cables, put my headlamp on, shoved a spare headlamp, my cellphone and a bag of MnMs into my pocket and threw on my rain jacket and headed back south to find my new friends Ralph and Vic who were about 2 miles back. 

Ralph is 76 years old and the oldest hiker I’ve met so far on the trail. After handing out MnMs and Ralph refusing for me to carry his pack(!), we inched our way to camp arriving at 9:30pm. Ralph was clearly in pain and exhausted and the 76-year-old was reduced to tears at his relief and happiness at reaching the shelter. Vic and I saw him to a spot in the shelter to sleep and then we set up our own tents and went to bed. That was a cool experience. 

Saw 5 wild hogs that grunted and ran off about a mile before camp – they were black… but not bears… yet. Over and out😎🌅 These views are for you as requested Ricky Taylor!!

Day 146 – Mile 1166.7 + 194.7: STATE NUMBER 13!!!🙌🙌😎😍 This is the top of Rocky Top Mountain where the Appalachian Trail crosses into Tennessee for the first time! Beautiful views – saw 5 HUGE turkeys, 2 deer, a couple wild hogs and a bunny on top of Thunderhead Mountain! 17-mile day to set us up nicely to go into Gatlinburg, TN, tomorrow!

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