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Morning on the Bald
Cheoa Bald
Spring 1997

Day 15: April 7, 1997
Camping on Cheoa Bald

Short morning. One mile walk to Nantahala Outdoor Center for breakfast, shopping (no big purchases), and lunch. Mr. Lipton and Hidalgo are spending the night here. Oh... eggs and french toast for breakfast. Bacon cheeseburger and ice cream for lunch!

Pretty big climb up to the bald. About 4,500 feet, I think. Did 6+ miles and 4,000 feet in three hours. Not bad. (again, I later found these numbers were a bit high) Saw Renn and Stimpy at the shelter. Redman and Elwood, gear shop guys from PA are tenting next door. Maybe a big day tomorrow. Knee behaved today and I'm treating a small blister on my right heel.


Day 16: April 8, 1997
Cable Gap Shelter

Did some surgery channel on both heels. Blisters aren't too bad. Breeze, Mingo, Renn & Stimpy are here. Didn't eat enough for lunch and really ran out of gas the last few hours. Sat and read some Tom Clancy by a roadside for a while. I'm gonna take a half day off at Fontata to let Lipton, Hidalgo and Gugg catch up.

Me this old guy Ribs (think Montogmery Wick from Vertical Limit). He talked nonstop for about three hours. We had to beat him to make him shut up an hour after dark. Just five miles into Fontana tomorrow.


Day 17: April 9, 1997
Fontana "Hilton" Shelter— Fontana, North Carolina

Right on the border to the Smoky Mountains. Great view of Fontana Dam and Lake from the shelter. Really roundabout walk down here. Seemed like we went out of our way. Took a shower and got a ride to Fontana Village with a family in a minivan from Michigan on spring break.

Fontana Village is one of those rustic not-quite-nice-enough-to-call-a-resort kinda places. Their season was is just getting started so not much is open yet. I ate alone at the only restaurant operating. Mozzarella sticks, salad and fettucini alfredo... then a pint of strawberry ice cream for desert. Spent $45 on 5 days worth of food at their overpriced store. Lipton, Hidalgo and Gugg caught up.


Day 18: April 10, 1997
Birch Spring Shelter— Great Smoky Mountains N.P.

First day in the Smokies. Looks pretty much like the mountains we've been climbing... except for the chain link bear fences across the front of the shelter. Breakfast in Fontata: three huge pancakes, eight slices of french toast, hash browns and sausage. Then ice cream.

Heard the other day that Stick dropped out in Franklin. Elwood also went home for some relative's hip problem. So Redman's going it alone. Amish Man, Lars and "Annoying Guy Whose Name Eludes Me" got to Fontana as I was heading out. They're hitching 30 miles to buy beer tonight.

Read Clancy along Fontata Lake till 3:00 and came up. Not a bad climb. Lipton was a bit behind. Hidalgo and Gugg are staying another night at Fontana.


Day 19: April 11, 1997
Spence Field Shelter— Great Smoky Mountains N.P.

Saw two deer at the first shelter we passed. They came really close. Looked like does, but could've been bucks without big antlers. Of course... no camera.

Got a late start, 10:00am. That's gotta stop. I'm having lunch after about three hours. Knee started complaining shortly before the shelter... precluding any possibility of pushing on to the next shelter. Gonna try to make food last to Davenport Gap and bypass Gatlinburg. We'll see.

Met Yokel, Mr. Mingo, and Peggy-O last night. Yokel used to be at Ft. Bragg. Did half the AT last year... gonna do the PCT next year. Bunch of section hikers here tonight... pain in the ass.


Day 20: April 12, 1997
Double spring Gap Shelter— Great Smoky Mountains N.P.

Decent day after leaving the Good Ole Boy Expedition behind (see section hikers in previous entry). Bunch of ignorant redneck bastards from Cincinnati (i understand this more than ever now that I live here). At least 35 years old... all four of them. Built a fire in the shelter with green wood (probably chopped a tree). Damn near killed us with the smoke. Another guy who threw up during the hike to the shelter (he said he spoke with the Lord) had many beers then saw fit to take some morphine and Xanex. He promptly went into a coma. His girlfriend's a nurse and didn't want her honey coming into the woods without the necessary pharmaceutical supplies.

Overheard: "Shit." "What's wrong?" "I'm only half drunk and I oughtta be hammered by now." These guys' normal lives must really suck if this is what it takes to unwind.

Anyway, it rained lightly most of the morning.. I guess there were some great views, but we were fogged in. Did catch a few glimpses of mountain islands in the clouds. Shelter was empty when when Lipton and I got here. Some girls from Savannah showed up around 8. Couple of guys are supposedly coming up in the dark with a broken flashlight. Hope I don't have to go looking for some idiot's lost ass tonight. Gatlinburg tomorrow.


Day 21: April 13, 1997
Grand Prix Motel— Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Kinda funny... going into Gatlinburg in the springtime from the AT to get some privacy. Lipton's gonna take a day or two off in Hot springs, so he pushed on tonight after a big dinner at the Gatlinburg Pizza Hut. I'm in a motel room alone, the first time I've spent a night alone in three weeks. Kinda nice. I sat on the bed at watched Tiger Woods win The Masters.

Did some serious walking this morning... 11 miles in 4.5 hours, including a 20 minute lunch. Met a couple of guys at Newfound Gap handing out Cokes and fruit to thru-hikers. They also gave up a ride into G'burg.

I'm thinking of picking up some walking poles at the outfitter. Kinda pricey, but should help my knee. Hope to do 15.5 miles tomorrow and meet Lipton, Gugg, and Hidalgo in Hot springs.


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