Cheoah Bald at Dawn
Cold Spring to Clingman's Dome
May 23 - 27 2004
23 May, Sunday
Starting: Cold Spring Shelter
Ending: Sassafras Gap Shelter
Miles:18.4 Total Miles:132
Wildlife:Dead Timber Rattler
Hikers met: Noah, Michael, graduating seniors; and section hiker Valerie
Views and peaks: All morning the fog kept me from seeing nice views. I did enjoy watching the kayakers at Wessler. The view of the Nantahala Gorge was pretty on the climb to Swim Bald.
Surprise! After signing off last night, a hiker arrived out of the rain, completely soaked and out of spirits. His name was Blue Owl.
I watched as he cooked supper, making small talk as the night closed in. We talked some about rain gear, gaiters, alcohol stoves, aches and pains. Just before getting up this morning, we talked some about his cough and what he could do to help himself get better.
Though it only sprinkled a little today, it was very foggy/cloudy all morning as the sun burned off the moisture from the night's rain.
Wessler Bald in the Fog
I briefly stopped at the Wessler Bald Shelter at 0930 and then at the Rufus Morgan shelter just before lunch. I was able to write some words about Rufus from my memories of hiking LeConte with him in 1975.
Rufus Morgan Shelter near Wessler
My appetite was demolished by the Wesser Cheese Burger I devoured in the River End restaurant in Wesser at the NOC. After lunch I watched the kayaks in the river for a bit and walked through the outfitter. The outfitter has a quite reasonable selection of equipment for camping.
Then it was off to climb the 2300 feet to the Sassafras Gap shelter where I am getting sleepy... sleepy... sleepy. Oh, did I mention that the mountain laurel was absolutely beautiful on the long dry climb?
Journal, 24 May
Starting: Sassafras Gap Shelter
Ending: Cable Gap Shelter
Miles: 15.2 Total Miles:147.2
Wildlife: Two times a turkey (hen I think) came out to meet me very aggressively and then faked having a broken wing. I looked but could not find her chicks either time.
Hikers met: No hikers today at all
Views and peaks: Great views from the Cheoah Bald.
Photos: Same and also of the Cable Gap Shelter
I woke about 0530 after going to bed at 9 PM the night before. I had hung my hammock in the shelter, as the only two good looking trees were right next to the fire pit, and a fire was wanted by all.
Noah, Michael, and Valerie around the Cowboy TV at Sassafras Gap Shelter
The mile long climb to Cheoah Bald was steep, but the views made me forget the pain. There was a lone camper in a tent on the top. They were not up and I did not wake them.
Looking north, I could see a long set of ridges, going lower and lower. I guessed right that the trail would follow them. A very long 5.5 miles later I had descended just about 1900 feet to Stecoah Gap where I planned to get water for the next climb.
Disaster! No water, no sign of water, no sound of water. I decided that I might find water on the way to Brown Fork Gap Shelter, so I went on.
It is worth noting that my mapdana shows locations in blue when there is water. Stecoah Gap was in bright blue, but the Brown Fork shelter was in black! A dry shelter. Hoping against hope that there was some error, I plodded up an extremely steep climb through Sweet Water pass (which was dry) and finally, having long since drained the last of my water, I reached the shelter. There on the right of the shelter was a sign: WATER!
Strange design of Brown Fork Gap Shelter
I was really dragging coming into that shelter. I'm not sure how much was real dehydration and how much psychological, but it was bad. now it was time for a 10 minute snooze (after signing in the shelter register) And then a push to a shelter that was clearly on the sign at the shelter turn off, but not on my Mapdanna.
6 miles, and 3 hours later, I walked into Cable Gap where I now sit writing this in the gathering gloom.
Cable Gap shelter does exist, despite not being listed on the Mapdanna hanging from the eve
It is 7 PM and I think it is time for a little harmonica action for the birds the varmints and the creek.
Journal, 25 May, Tuesday
The hiking day was short. I woke with the birds and was on my way by 0630. It was a quick (3 hour) downhill walk to Fontanna Lake. Poison ivy began to appear along the trail again for the first time in several days.
At the lake, I found the phone for Fontana Village shuttle, but was disappointed to find out that there was to me no shuttle service today. The truck was at the station 3.5 miles away.
The second car that came by picked me up and deposited me at the garage. It was only $15 to get my car back. The mechanic was very nice to have done the brake work for next to nothing.
I found the Hike Inn, met Jeff and Nancy, who were in the middle of their wedding anniversary, and in the middle of listening to the park service scanner. One of theirs, a girl they had dropped off the day before, had gotten burned when her gas stove had flared up.
The Hike Inn
I went on into Robbinsville, ate at the Chinese restaurant, bought a few dollars worth of groceries, and went back to the Inn.
Within the hour, Beverly arrived to begin my car relocation. Each of us drove to Newfound Gap and then she drove me back. Round trip about 2.5 hours. Cost $75.
While I was gone, Nancy washed my clothes and I was able to completely dry out all the equipment.
I had a pleasant evening chatting with a couple of hikers and turned in at 830 PM.
Journal, 26 May
Starting: Fontana Dam
Ending: Derrick Knob Shelter
Miles: 22.7 Total Miles: 175.8
Wildlife: Several deer, including at shelter, wild turkey
Hikers met: many, including a pig hunter
Views and peaks: Wild country above 5000 feet. I was so tired that I have no idea what they were.
Arrived at shelter with three guys speaking Polish. They have good enough English, but we all are so tired that I have no idea what they think or know. They are out for a 2 night hike here.
Today, I fell in love with the idea of getting to my car early on Friday. I was at a shelter at 330 PM, but the trail had been easy, and there was another shelter only 6.7 miles further. I did not give much thought to the fact that I had already done 17 miles and did not know that the miles coming up would be very challenging.
It was a bit discouraging. I had to remind myself over and over that when I bite off more than is comfortable to chew, it is just a good reason to not bite off so much in the future... not a good reason to stop eating.
How I dry socks between rest stops - using the closure on the pack
I got to the shelter at 715 PM, a bit more than 12 hours hiking. I am bushed and am getting to sleep right now.
Journal, 27 May
Starting: Derick Knob Shelter
Ending: Clingman's Dome
Miles today: 10.1 Total miles for hike: 185
Wildlife: Wild Pig
Hikers met: Several including another pig hunter
Views and peaks: Ridges approaching Clingman's Dome
I had a good night's sleep. Lots of storms. Feet wet early with the water on the long grass.
Nothing keeps water on grass out of shoes!
Feet dry by 10 AM.
As the hike progressed, I was bit very badly with get-home-itis. It occurred to me that it would be simple to get a ride from the Dome to my car, putting me in bed in Dayton tonight, Thursday.
There is the tower on Clingman's Dome! End of the hike this time.
So here I am in Kentucky Fried Chicken in Seviereville, TN, eating and writing, and on the way home.
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