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.
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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