28 May 2006

Fontana Dam Visitor Center to Mollies Ridge Shelter

Appalachian Trail, 11 miles
It was a pretty grueling day, but we're still standing. It started with a two-hour shuttle ride with Curtis, which was exhausting in its own right. Like all shuttle drivers, Curtis is quite the character. He doesn't seem to have an "off" button. Above is a picture of him with his shuttle van.

We arrived at Fontana Dam Visitor Center about 9, where we used a real potty for the last time, topped off our water bottles, and filled out our backcountry hiking permit. By 9:30 we were off. After crossing the dam, we started tackling the monstrous climb up Shuckstack, the first obstacle. It was wicked hard. But we made it to the top, and beyond, all the way to Mollies Ridge Shelter. It took about seven and a half hours. I feel like if we can make it through this day, we can surely make it through the ones ahead -- even the thirteener on Wednesday.

Mid-morning, we came upon a mama pheasant sitting right on the trail, and when she flew off, we saw one of her babies run off in the other direction. As we passed, she chastised us pretty loudly until we were probably 200 yards down the trail.

Two deer wandered very close to our shelter tonight. They are so big that I thought they might even be some form of elk or something. They made me a little nervous. They have velvet antlers and seem to have no fear of people.

Four other hikers are at our shelter tonight. Two guys from Florida and two others from someplace sort of local (I think somewhere in Tennessee). They are all quite respectful and nice. You know, it's interesting -- the overwhelming majority of hikers are men, but even among the solo ones, I've never run into anyone creepy on the trail. It feels very safe here.

Regarding my ponderings from Saturday night:
  • I decided to wear my Salomon boots. Go big or go home.
  • I did bring my extra one-liter water bottle, and am really glad I did. I've needed it.
  • I left the tent behind. Living dangerously I guess.
  • My knee has spontaneously healed itself. I'm grateful. No knee pain at all.

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