Franklin, NC to Fontana Dam, NC



Winding Stair Gap to Cold Spring Shelter

Monday, 3/30

AT Miles = 15.8 / 123.5
Other Miles = 0 / 13
Total Miles = 15.8 / 136.4

I enjoyed my zero day in Franklin yesterday, but by the end of the day yesterday I was itching to get back out on the trail.

I was awake early this morning. I think I actually sleep better in my hammock than I do in a bed in a motel room. The Baptist church in Franklin does breakfast for hikers every day for about three weeks during thru-hiker season, and their van picked up a bumch of us at the motel about 7:15. They drove us to the church and served us pancakes, bacon, coffee, cocoa, and orange juice. They had us back at the motel before 8:30 and Ron Haven showed up with his old school bus to drive us back up to the trail in Winding Stair Gap a few minutes after 9:00, so I was on the trail a few minutes past 9:30.

Last night was cold, qand it even snowed a bit up in the mountains. There was still a bit of snow on the ground in the shade. I climbed Siler Bald and Wayah Bald. There is a tower up on Wayah Bald and the views were tremendous. It was so nice to see something other than the inside of a cloud!

Right now I am sitting around The fire ring while a couple of other hikers try to start a fire, and we are all chatting about a multitude of topics. Tomorrow looks like a rather easy 12 miles into the Nantahala Ouitdoor Center, where there should be a package from Jodi with a couple days of food. I'll get a good restaurant meal there. I still haven't decided whether I will stay there tomorrow night or not. I need to make it to Fontana Dam before the post office there closes at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, as all my supplies for the stretch of trail through ther Smokies will be there. If I don't get there in time I will have to wait until the post office opens on Monday.

Oh, I saw a deer today. That makes my wildlife sightings so far a couple of rabbits, a snake, plenty of squirrels, and a plethora of birds I can't identify.

Allen Freeman

Cold Spring Shelter to NOC

Tuesday, 3/31

AT Miles = 11.5 / 135
Other Miles = 0 / 13
Total Miles = 11.5 / 147.9

It was a cold night last night. Okay, it wasn't any colder than several other nights I've camped on this trip, but my own absent-mindedness made it a cold night. As you know, I sleep in a camping hammock. In a hammock you need insulation under you, as the cold air curculates underneath the hammock. I have my hammock set up with a double bottom, with the outer layer made of silnylon so it is waterproof and more or less windproof. Between the two layers I have an open cell foam pad that is made for the Hennessy Hammock and provides insulation. The OCF pad has small elastics on either side that attach to the edge of the hammock and aligns it correctly so that it is positioned under the part of the hammock where I lie.On either end it has long elastics which attach to the hammock suspension line on the head end and the foot end. These elastics hold the OCF pad up against the hamm,ock bottom tightly, so there is no air space between the hammock bottom and the OCF pad. Well, when setting
up the hammock I attached the side elastics, but I never attached the elastics on the ends. Duh! I woke up about 4:00am this morning with my back and butt very chnilled. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why, so I just suffered through it until it was light enough to get up about 7:00. Only then did I realize my mistake, which left a gap between the insulating pad and ther hammock, and let cold air in to chill me.

Lately I have been eating a cold breakfast rather than using the time and fuel to heat water and make tea and oatmeal, so after eating my Grape Nuts with powdered milk, and drinking an Instant Breakfast, also mixed with powdered milk, I packed up and was on the trail about 8:15. After pushing kind of hard yesterday to make 16 miles, I took it easy today. It was a cool, damp, overcast day, and hiking felt really good; generating enough heat to make me comfortable hiking in shorts and a T-Shirt.

A couple of brief rain showers passed over a couple of hours into my hike, and since I was just passing by the Wesser Bald Shelter, I stopped there about 10:30 and ate an early lunch of English Muffins with peanut butter under cover, and I also rigged my pack for the rain. The rain stopped in a few minujtes and it didn't rain again the rest of my hike.

Abolut an hour later I reached the top of the ridge overlooking the Nantahala Gorge and the Nantahala River. The view was quite impressive, though I don't know if the pictures I took will look like it since it was a very flat, gray day and it may just look like a dull, featureless, gray mass.

From here the rest of the hike was downhill, which is murder on my feet. I'd rather climb all day than descend! I finally reached the bottom around 1:30 and came out at the Nantahala Oudoor Center, directly opposite the outfitters store. I had a mail-drop scheduled here so I wen in and inquired after my package, and sure enough when they checked the book it showed that they had 1 package for Allen Freeman. The clerk went to retrieve it for me and when he returned I found to my surporise that the bos was not from home (the box with my food for the next two days to Fontana Dam) , but rather iot was from a friend out in California. I asked the clerk to double-check, but that was the only package for me.

I took the heft surprise package in hand, and after getting directions I set off to register for a bunk in the hostel, then got to my assigned place and opened my package to find a huge array of snacks and supplies. It was like Christmas morning and I wastede nol time in pawing through it pulling out, first, all the food, and then going back and picking out akk the most useful supplies. The box must have weighed 10 pounds and there is no way I can take all of its contents, but I have offered the largesse to the othjer hikers here tonight and the box is well on its way to being emptied.

After opening my surprise package, but before taking a shower, I called Jodi and asked her about the package she mailed to me here, only to find out that I screwed up communications and Jodi didn't realize she was supposed to mail anything. That being the case, all the little goodies in my surporise box are going to come in very handy, as they are going to provide the base, along with some odds and ends left in my food bag and a couiple of Pop-Tarts I bought at the store here, of my diet for the next couple of days until I get to Fontana Dam and my next mail-drop.

So now I've showered, washed out my socks, and had a meal and a couple of beers at the restaurant. Tomorrow morning I'll have a big breakfast in the restaurant (I checked and they open at 8:00), then make my climb out of thee gorge (3,000 feet in six miles of steady climbing) and be on my way towards Fontana Dam.I may get into Fontana on Thursday afternoon.If not, then I should get there early on Friday, in plenty of time to get a ride into town and pick up my package at the post office beofre they close at 4:30. From Fontana Dam, I'll enter the Great Smoku Mountains National Park. That's exciting!

So, a special thanks to my anonymous benefactor. Yes Monique, that's you. (Did you enjoy your brief anonymity?) All kidding aside, that was an overwhelming array of goodies you packed. I am stunned by the effort you must have put into it. I promise you that every last item will be gratefully used by me or some other hiker.

Finally, a special note to Bogey and Slim, if you are reading this: I ate breakfast at the Baptist Church in Franklin yesterday morning, and saw your signatures on the wall for the class of 2008!

Allen Freeman

NOC to Brown Fork Gap


Wednesday, 4/1

AT Miles = 16.0 / 151
Other Miles = 0.1 / 13.1
Total Miles = 16.1 / 164.1

I had a good night at the NOC last night. After hanging around in the common room of the hostel for a couple of hours chatting with other hikers, I headed back to my bunk to sleep figuring I would be woken up when the heavy drinkers came to bed later in the night, but apparently I slept through their entrance as the next thing I knew it was morning.

It rained all night and was still raining when I walked back across the river to the restaurant for breakfast at 8:00am. When I left the restaurant and started hiking about 8i:50 the rain was tapering off but was still heavy enough that I hiked in my rain gear.

It took a few minutes of exploring to figure out where the trail left the NOC parking lot, but I finally found the place where it crossed the railroad tracks and headed up the hill.

It was a tough day. I only covered 16 miles but this 16 miles included a LOT of steep climbing. The first 6 miles were all uphill and the next 10 miles were a constant up and down. At the beginning of the day I figured I would be done by 4:00, but in actuality I didn't arrive here until after 5:00, totally spent.

The first half of the day was rainy or overcast, and I hiked in the heavy fog I have become so used to, but about 1:00pm the sun finally burned through and the rest of the day felt more like summer than early spring. Right now it is just gorgeous out, except for a few annoying gnats. It will be dark in an hour and I still have to go through the frustrating ritual of hanging my food bag.

Tomorrow should be a relatively easy 12 miles into Fontana Dam. I should be able to get there in early afternoon and have plenty of time to get a ride into town and collect all my packages, then retreat to a motel room where I can sort through my food and gear and figure out what I need for the next leg in the Smokies. Whatever I don't need I'll bounce* further up the trail. I still haven't decided whether I will zero in Fontana or head back out on Friday.

* Jargon Alert:
There is a subculture around hiking the Appalachian Trail, and like any subculture it has its own lingo; a handy way to tell the insiders from the outsiders. Here's a short primer in case I slip some trail lingo into my posts:

- Thru-hiker: Someone who hikes the entire trail in one year

- Section Hiker: Someone who hikes the trail in multiple shorter chunks, often over many years

- NOBO: Northbounder (like me), someone who hikes the trail from south to north

- SOBO: Southbounder

- GAME: GA to ME; same as NOBO

- MEGA: ME to GA; same as SOBO

- Zero or Zero Day: A day in which you hike zero miles; a day off. Can be a noun or a verb. "I will take a zero on Friday" or "I will zero on Friday."

- Bounce box: A box used to mail things you don;'t need right now to a town further up the trail. I have a bounce box waiting for me in Fontana Dam that has some of my warmer clothes in it, as well as the charger for my camera battery. I mailed it from Hiawassee because I knew I wouldn't need those things for this part of the hike.

Allen Freeman

Brown Fork Gap to Fontana Dam

Thursday, 4/2

AT Miles = 12.7 / 163.7
Other Miles = .3 / 13.4
Total Miles = 13 / 177.1

It was a wonderful evening last night, and when I went to bed about
8:30 the stars were starting to shine and the moon was visible. It
even stayed a bit too warm overnight and I had trouble sleeping
because I was too warm in my sleeping bag.

Then when I woke up this morning, the clouds had rolled back in. It
was gray and overcast, but it wasn't actually raining. I ate a quick
breakfast of Grape Nuts cereal and some Instant Breakfast, packed my
gear up and hit the trail about 8:00am. It was pleasant enough hiking,
but nothing spectacular or photo worthy. I was hoping to get some
shots of Fontana Dam from above as the trail approached it, but by the
time I got there it was raining rather steadily and the fog had rolled
back in. I did get a shot or two sort of through the trees as the fog
ebbed and flowed. I don't know whether they will be any good or not.
Yesterday morning while I was climbing out of the Nantahala River
Gorge and passing by the overlooks, it was also raining and foggy and
I could see absolutely nothing. When I got to Cheoah Bald, which is
purported to have nice views, it was still foggy. Half an hour later
the sky cleared and the sun shone and it was a summer day. It seems
the weather is clear whenever there isn't all that much to see.

I am still pondering whether to get back on the trail tomorrow or take
a zero here at Fontana. My legs and feet are pretty tired and once I
leave here I have at least 8 solid, tough days to get through the
Smokies. I've checked the weather forecast and it looks like a mixture
of sunny and overcast days with some chance of rain every couple of
days. Some days call for temps in the 70s, but others have highs in
the 40s and overnight lows in the 20s. I am going to have to load up
on food and warm clothing. Another day of rest sounds like a better
and better idea; still, I am waffling.

I am super hungry so I guess I am going to head into the restaurant
and have something to eat.

Allen F. Freeman

Friday, April 03, 2009

More Photos

I just uploaded the photos I took between Franklin and Fontana Dam.
Again, there aren't that many because the weather was often wet and I
kept thwe camera buried in the dry part of my pack.

It's dark and ominous outside today with winds of 25 - 35 miles an
hour with gusts to 45, but I think I am going to head out anyway. Wish
me luck!

Allen F. Freeman


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Copyright 1996 - 2011 Allen F. Freeman
Last modified: November 03, 2011