Day 14 – Cable Gap Shelter to Birch Spring camp site

There have been days out here where nothing much happens. I wake up, pack up, walk eat, walk,filter water, walk, setup, sleep. Then there are days where almost too much happens. This was one of those days. It was a day filled with gratitude, grace and good fortune (noted a “G” below).

I woke again around 7 and was out of camp by 8. The plan was to hike the 6.5 to the Fontana Dam Shelter, get the noon shuttle to Fontana Village, eat lunch, resupply and get the 4 shuttle back out and then hike the remaining 6.7 to the Birch Springs campsite. The morning seemed a little more chilly so even though I was starting with a climb I decided to wear my base layer tights under my shorts. Callen left camp a little before me. I was sure the hammock camping THs that came in late with be gone before sunrise, but they were just rousing when I left camp. Everyone is hiking their own hike – never can judge who’s gonna hike how.

After a little climb, most of the rest of the first half of the day was descent to get down to the level of the dam. It was pleasant enough but I was feeling some pain in my left foot and ankle every time I would step on something that put pressure on the middle of the outside of my foot. I geared down a little to make sure to not make it any worse.

I realized it was the start of a weekend when I passed a few day hikers coming up the hill. Somewhere along the way I passed m&m and Jake, bard and Liam all passed me. I arrived at the marina parking lot around 11 and Caleb and the trio were all there waiting for the shuttle. I had 1.4 to get to the shelter and an hour to do it so I went ahead. I made it to the shelter at about 11:45 and first started waiting there for the shuttle, charging my battery on the solar charger the TVA had setup there.

First G: I just happened to reread the sign for the shuttle and noticed that it said the pickup was at the shelter parking lot. Where I was didn’t look like a parking lot, so I quickly grabbed my things and hoofed it up the (paved) hill, getting there a few minutes before 12.

Second G: I was able to call home and talk with DeAnna, even though there was only one bar of service. I’ve gotten into a mode of texting as I can but calling at least once a day. It reminds me a little of when we were dating in HS and college – we spent a lot of time on the phone. It’s been nice to get back to that.

The shuttle arrived a little after 12 and had one hiker on board – one I had met at Cold Spring shelter a few nights before. He had gone in on the 9 am shuttle and was heading back out from the dam. Once we dropped him off, we headed to the marina and picked up most of the folks I had camped with the night before – Caleb, Bard, Liam, Jake, M&M and DY2 (a hiker from Quebec). Even the three hammock THs emerged right as we were leaving but they were hanging at the marina for a while so skipped the shuttle.

Third G: The shuttle driver was super cool and very helpful. He made sure everyone got to where they needed in Fontana village. Bard, Liam and Jake were just there to resupply so he dropped them off the general store. The rest of us wanted some town food, so he drove us up to the main hotel. The village is under new ownership and it’s clear they are investing in making it a cool place. They still ramping and staffing up, but I really hope they make it as awesome as they seem to want to.

Our driver continued being awesome by actually showing us all where the restaurant was and where we could leave our packs. I went to grab my charging stuff to power everything up and had a mini panic attack – the bag with my charger, two short USB-c cables and micro USB adapter was missing. I must had either left it at the charging station or maybe it fell out of my bag in the van.

Fourth G: I still had my battery, usb to usbc adapter and the longer usbc cable and when I mentioned I was missing my charger, Caleb let me borrow his since he was going to start the night at the hotel.

I plugged in my battery, sat down with Caleb and DY2 and ordered lunch. I decided to skip the beer today and go for the soda I’d been wanting for the last two days. For eats I ordered the bacon cheese burger and a side salad (side note: I really think a secret to last day miles is bacon. The day I had the bacon cheese burger I tacked on 4.5. Yesterday pretty much all I ate on trail was a bacon epic bar. Today I powered through 6.5 miles on 3:30 with nearly a 2000 foot climb on that bacon cheese burger).

Fifth G: lunch at a table, indoors with Caleb and DY2. It was delicious of course, but also just nice to talk about the trail, about our lives and of course about nothing.

Lunch was over and we paid. M&M had sat at another table so I said my goodbyes to them. They were also staying at the hotel and figured they would take the full 8 days to get through the smokies. Can never be sure, but that might be the last we see of each other.

My lunch companions and I walked outside and tried to figure out how to walk back to the general store. I was going to resupply and they were going to check in to the hotel.

Sixth G: right as we walked out our shuttle driver drove up on a golf cart to drop off Bard, Jake and Liam and of course being the super helpful guy he is, offered to drive us back down to the general store. We hopped on and waited for him to come back (he was showing them how to get to the restaurant). He was back quickly and we started the Mr Toad’s Wild ride down the hill. In was grateful for the ride, but it was the second time on the hike so far I thought I might die. The brakes were up for the job though and we all got there in one piece.

Seventh G: the super helpful driver let me know he’d decided to add a 2:00 shuttle run so if I hurried with my resupply I could get back to the trail faster, increasing my chances of getting to my intended camping spot for the night.

Eighth G: since I was out to camp so early yesterday, I’d made lists of exactly what I needed (not exact food but numbers of meals and snacks, since you can never be sure what any resupply is going to have) so I was able to get everything in 10 mins or so. The driver didn’t even have time to take DY2 to her room (seriously, the Fontana village shuttle driver is awesome). I said my goodbyes to Caleb on the porch of the general store and to DY2 as we dropped her off at her room. Then we drive back to the Fontana shelter (parking lot 😝).

I checked the back of the van to make sure my charging bag wasn’t there and no dice. The driver took my name and number and said he would text me if it turned up and said if not at least he’d see me at trail days. Love that guy!

Ninth G: I dropped my pack and did one more full pack explosion in the grass by the parking lot and still no charger bag. So I walked down to the shelter with my resupply, food bag, phone, battery and one remaining cable to charge up while I field stripped all my food (getting it into smaller and lighter packaging). When I went to plug things into the TVA solar charger, my missing charging block, two cables and adapter were all sitting there! Best I can figure they must have blown off the table when I was walking around the shelter (and noticing the location of the pickup). I looked over the fence and even found the bag they were in. LNT!

With the extra cords I was able to charge both my battery and phone while I prepped my food. I finished that up around 3:30, grabbed everything this time, filled up my water from the tap and headed back up the hill to my pack, throwing everything in and starting down the road to the dam.

Tenth G: Just as I as approached the dam, I remembered a critical resupply that of forgotten to do: TP. I had a at most a one day supply and was going to be out for 5 days. Luckily there is a “lookout” right by the dam that was still open and had bathrooms (and a shower for any TH that stumbles across this later). A little TP piracy later and I was now resupply complete.

I walked across the dam right down the middle of the road. Through hiker privilege and all. JK – it’s close to vehicle traffic now due to some construction. I continued the road walk to the AT trail head where I dropped half of my Smokies TH permit in the box and started the ~2,000 ft climb.

Eleventh G: as I climbed, I ran into a few day hikers and they asked me where I was going. When I told them Maine, they clearly wanted to talk a little. They ended by saying it’s something they had just started talking about doing one day on this hike and I told them to go for it. I hope they at least try one day.

Twelfth G: a little further up the hill I ran into first one (with a huge chainsaw – always yield to a man with a huge chainsaw, even if you are going up hill) and then three other (no chainsaw, but various other melee weapons 😝) and they had been out all day clearing blow downs after the storms earlier in the week for hikers like me to have an easier go of the trail. I thanked them a few times and headed on up the hill.

I got to camp right before 7 and quickly setup while trying to keep one eye on an amazing sunset. I had a little snack, hung my food from the bear cables, journaled and hopped in my hammock.

I’ve got two big mile days the next couple of days (17+). If even a little off the grace, gratitude and good fortune continue, I should make them with no problems.

(Note: this is already a really long post, so I’m going to just do a photo dump as a media gallery here at the end. Maybe one day I’ll hire a blog admin to pretty all these posts up for me – only so much I can do from my phone).






5 responses to “Day 14 – Cable Gap Shelter to Birch Spring camp site”

  1. Alan Pickett Avatar
    Alan Pickett

    Enjoyed your post immensely. Grace, Gratitude and Good fortune! God is blessing you. Amen. Tomorrow is Easter. May our Risen Lord be present to you this day, and throughout your Adventure. Peace out.

  2. Eric Avatar

    I’m impressed by the pace, especially given the climbs. Glad you recovered your items. Take care of the foot! Enjoying the posts!

  3. Matthew Swendiman Avatar
    Matthew Swendiman

    Best post yet! Enjoy the Smokies!

  4. Nancy Harris Avatar
    Nancy Harris

    May you experience our risen Lord tomorrow on Easter Sunday, and see the majesty that only He can create that surrounds you on the trail. Really enjoying your posts.Love you.

  5. David Davidson Avatar
    David Davidson

    Thanks for the pictures and the focus on gratitude and grace. There will be warm days ahead! Happy Easter

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