It is time to leave the plush bed and porcelain plumbing. I rolled out of bed to take advantage of another shower and hotel coffee to go with my cold Pizza. I also thought I would try to summon an Uber or Lyft. No go on either one and verified with the front desk that the shuttle would not leave until 10 and I did not want to wait that long so I hit the pavement at 8. I was shocked to see only three cars in the parking lot.
The walk down to the marina took 40 minutes. A quick look around and I was off again. The walk up the lake towards the dam was steeper than I thought. It did not take long to get to the shelter they call the Fontana Hilton. It’s bigger and nicer than usual and now has a solar charging station. Just up the path is the bathroom and shower. I took a peek inside to see if they were open and they were.
Before long I was walking down towards the dam and soon walked across it. It looked just as I remembered it. The trailhead for the great Smoky Mountain National Park was about a mile from the dam.
I remembered from before the climb from the dam being a long climb and it was. It was not steep or rocky or rooty, just long. I started up about 11 and was hoping to hit the fire tower by 12:30 for lunch. I hit it exactly then and grabbed my lunch and headed up the tower. I got half way up and the wind was howling and I got a bit nervous because some of the railing was missing, so I stopped and took some pictures and headed back down again. I ate at the cabin ruins instead.
About half way up to the fire tower I saw my first bears. At first I thought I saw a squirrel but it was too big. Then I realized it was a cub. So looked around and saw the mother. Then another cub, and then another. They were only about 20 yards downslope and knew I was there but couldn’t care less if I was there or not.
The weather was cool all day and I sweated but not as much as previous days. I think washing the pack helped too because I did not stink too bad.
I hit the first shelter at about 4:30 and knew that I should keep going to the next one just three miles away. I hit that one just after 6 and it was about half full with a running club that were fun to talk to. It had been foggy the last Mile or so and the shelter was fully engulfed in fog. I made dinner and bedded down quickly because it is likely be a cold night tonight.