Fontana Dam Shelter to Cable Gap Shelter, 6.6 miles


After another shower in the morning, I cooked a freeze-dried meal that Jamie from Nashville had given me a few days before—scrambled eggs with ham and peppers. It would have been tastier wrapped in a tortilla with cheese. The Fontana Dam Reception Center was a short walk through the woods from the shelter. From there, the shuttle van took me into Fontana Village, a vacation resort with a lodge, cabins, campsites, and amenities: laundromat, ice-cream shop, grocery store, and post office—all in one place. My mail drop was at the post office and contained six days’ rations, but I sent it home unopened since I had enough food on hand to last two more days.

At the laundromat, I wore shorts and a rain poncho—marking me as a backpacker. Friendly people asked questions, mostly about bears and snakes. I walked to the lodge and used their computer to check email. Gary, a hiking buddy, had sent a message that he would pick me up at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Back at the store, I bought snacks, denatured alcohol, and a double-scoop ice-cream cone. It was late afternoon when the shuttle van dropped me back at the trail. I drank all my water while hiking steeply uphill the first three miles from the lake before crossing a stream. The trail leveled and descended the last three miles to Cable Gap, passing through rhododendron, mountain laurel, and flame azalea.

The Appalachian Trail leveled and descended the last three miles to Cable Gap Shelter, passing through rhododendron, mountain laurel, and flame azalea.

A young couple from Georgia had set up their tent in front of Cable Gap Shelter when I arrived late evening. Sara and Jerry cooked noodles and vegetables in cheese sauce, and I made shrimp-and-grits and banana-nut-bread pudding for dessert. A storm rolled in after I hung my food bag from a tree. In the shelter, I turned off my headlamp when a moth landed on my nose. The storm turned violent. Rain blew in the shelter, wetting my sleeping bag. I quickly relocated to the back wall. Lightning flashed rapidly; trees danced in the strobe effect. Although the shelter was made of substantial logs, the quake of every boom was conveyed through my sleeping pad. I lay awake several hours—awed by the awful power, anxious, yet simultaneously invigorated.

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Cable Gap Shelter to Locust Cove Gap

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Spence Field Shelter to Fontana Dam Shelter

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Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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Recipes for Adventure: Healthy, Hearty & Homemade Backpacking Recipes. The Ultimate Guide to Dehydrating Food for the Trail.
Recipes for Adventure II: The Best of Trail Bytes. Adventures in Dehydrating Backpacking Food.
Action Guide: Dehydrating 31 Meals. Step-by-step instructions.
Backpacking Chef Menu Planning & Food Drying Workbook.
1001 Miles on the Appalachian Trail.

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