March 20, 1998

3/20/98 Fontana Dam, NC

11.5 miles (162.0 total)

Began the day with a nice thunderstorm. Register entries at the next shelter said they also got hail. I’m glad we didn’t since I was tenting. But again, by eight o’clock, the rain stopped. For some reason I thought today would be an easy hike into Fontana Dam - NOT! The one good thing was the goddess took pity on her humble hiker and the sun was out much of the day. I wanted to stop several times just to sit in the sunshine but I was worried about getting to Fontana Village before the post office closed. The last mile of the trail to the shelter was someone’s cruel joke on hikers because it was this maze of ups and downs that probably was less than ¼ mile if it had been straight. To my surprise the shelter was empty - I’d been expecting Funk-29, Jeff and at least the Johnson Brothers.

The trail was literally carved out of the mountainside.
You had to be careful you didn't fall down the slope

Taking a much needed break with Camel
on a long mileage day to Fontana Dam

My day got worse after that. I started to walk to town, thought I was on the wrong road, so I walked back the other way, only to run into the dam, then turn around again and almost walk the whole way before someone gave me a lift. The road was a typical up and down winding road with no shoulder. I ended up walking on the asphalt with my pack. I think the road walking did more damage than the 30-miles in two days. Although I was in a daze when I finally reached the post office, I was delighted that I received a bunch of cards and letters. I ended up getting a shuttle back to the shelter to visit with the Brothers Johnson at last. The sun was replaced with clouds as the afternoon wore on.

After much internal debate, I decided to stay in the $10 hostel in the village. A crew of MacKaye Trail maintainers, Lawrence and Laurice, first drove me to the restaurant, then all over trying to find the registration building. The had planned to stay at the shelter but opted for the hotel. They couldn’t have been nicer to drive a cranky, tired hiker around (besides the fact that I needed a shower real bad). The hostel building will sleep about 30 but I was the only one. Maybe that’s why I had trouble falling asleep because I was used to camping with others for the last 2 ½ weeks. I’m going to miss the Brothers Johnson but now that they bought hiking poles, there’s no way I could keep up with them.