Day 8: Ups & Downs to Fontana Dam

Tuesday March 19, 24.9miles/40.1km

Spring near Grassy Gap (139.4) to Fontana Dam Village/Hwy 28 (164.3) (NC)

I realized last night that I am less than 25 miles from Fontana Dam Village, where I can get another big dinner! So I woke up early and was on trail at 7:30am, to make it to town in time.

Within 5 minutes I passed a memorial, to a fallen park ranger who died fighting a wildfire.

Then, the trail went up, up, up to the summit of Cheoah Bald (5052ft/1540m). I’m glad I broke up the climb, and did the first 1000ft last night.

On the way, I stopped by Sassafras Gap shelter for a snack. There is something unusual about this shelter….

I hadn’t seen anyone all morning, and then on the summit… heaps of people!

It was only 10:30am, so still kinda cold, and I didn’t linger on the summit more than 15 minutes. Once the trail dropped 1000ft, it felt much warmer.

Some of the passes here have odd names.

I saw there were picnic tables up ahead at Stecoah Gap, so I waited a little longer until 12:30 to stop for lunch. I get oddly excited by picnic tables.

From there, it was only 13 more miles to Fontana village! The trail was nice, and had switchbacks for most of the uphills. There were 2 spots where they were missing, and some of the switchbacks appeared quite new, so I think more will be added soon.

I passed by Cable Gap shelter in mid afternoon, and there were already plenty of people camped there.

Just a few more miles of nice trail, and it’s all downhill to town.

I get to the road at 6pm, and it’s quite warm down here at 2000ft elevation.

There is a phone at the toilet building that dials directly to the shuttle service (it’s 2.5miles to town). The nice lady informs me that it’s still early season, so no shuttles after 5pm. Well… darn. These early season closures are becoming a pattern…

So, I setup camp nearby, make dinner in the nice heated bathroom, and plan to get the shuttle tomorrow morning at 8am when they start running.

It’s a nice sunset!

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