Great Smoky Mountains Here We Come
Thursday April 13, 2017
8:45am - 4:50pm
Miles: 166.0 - 177.0
Hot and Sunny
Stayed in Millie's Ridge Shelter
4586 feet elevation
AT North of Fontana Dam, NC
We had a great Nero day yesterday at Fontana Dam. Our shuttle back to the trail dropped us off at 8:30am. A little later then our usual starts. Our trek across the Dam was peaceful with just Shortcake and myself as the morning sun glistened on the water's surface. The day started at 1700 feet elevation. It it didn't stay there long.
After crossing the dam the trail progressed along a road for half a mile until turning back into the woods, the entry for The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our level ground soon became a steep incline. We were headed for over 4500 feet. But it wasn't all up. There were several PUDS (pointless ups and downs) between us and our final destination.
Four and a half miles into the hike we came to a blue blazed trail leading to Shuckshack fire tower at 3889 feet elevation. We dropped our packs at the trail junction and proceeded with our poles up the steep incline to check out the tower.
Shuckshack Fire Tower
So far the score is Shuckshack Fire Tower - 2, me - 0. In 2015 I was only able to climb to the first platform. This year I was sure I could handle the exposed structure no problem. I confidently ran up to the base and took one step up as my stomach fell. There was no right side handle for the first flight. No worries I cheered myself on. When I reached the first platform and tried to round the corner I was unable to continue. I slowly did an about face and retreated to the safety of the ground.
Shortcake was able to claim ownership to the second level. As she did the competitive side awoke inside me. When she was down I went back to the base step and made a motion to go back up. Then quickly changed my mind and silently said, "Nah, it's not worth it!"
Back at the trail junction we sat enjoying a snack. As we did so a hiker in his 70's approached and joined us. Shortly a second hiker appeared. As he got closer Shortcake said to him "What trail are you coming from?" I looked at him, he looked at me and we both looked at Shortcake dumb-founded by her question. He replied puzzledly, "The AT". Shortcake soon realized her error. She was a little disoriented from our jaunt up to the tower and when she saw the two hikers coming she thought they were on a different trail. We all laughed and got lots of enjoyment from that at her expense.
Later that evening it was my turn to have the brain fart. At the shelter chitchatting with other hikers someone asked if I had started from Fontana Dam that morning. I quickly replied, "No! The visitor center." Well, the visitor center is at the dam. I'd like to record all brain dead conversations we hikers have. You'd think all the fresh air and exercise would improve our mental awareness but on the contrary, we are all flat lining in the EEG department.