What follows are excerpts from the journals of Shawn McCarton and Karl Weiss, the local couple who are in the process of a six-month hike of the Appalachian Trail. As of their most current writings, they are in North Carolina and will be crossing into Tennessee in the next several days.
By way of explanation, McCarton and Weiss have trail names. McCarton's is Pace and Weiss' is Hungus. Trail hikers give each other these nicknames. You can read the couple's full journal here.
We crossed the gap then went right back up hill. "Jacobs Ladder" was a seriously burly uphill that I damn near crawled up. The 85* temperatures were nuts for April 2nd. I was sweating like it was July! Pace was at the top waiting for me. After some ridge walking we descended to Brown Fork Gap where the shelter was. As we rolled in it started to rain so Pace and I actually decided to sleep in the shelter! Cheese water, sir towlie, pace, unicoi zoom, a guy whose name I forget, and I were all crammed in there. We cooked dinner around 730 and chowed down. The rain had stopped so we could eat outside. Right around dark an ultralight hiker named Juice showed up and asked to sleep in the shelter. It technically only sleeps 6, so he made 7, but we still have room.
After watching a great sunset we all crammed in the shelter. We'll see how well we sleep tonight.
Getting out of the shuttle, unfortunately our camera had fallen off of Hungus's pack and been run over. We knew it fell off but were unaware of the damage until the moment I decided to us it. It was pretty bad. The screen on the back was cracked and the lens wouldn't open. It had been crushed. That being said until we receive our new camera, we will be using our phones. Luckily we were able to retrieve the memory card.
The rain and thunder kept coming and coming. Hungus and I had originally planned to stay at the Fontana Hilton. Now I know what you're thinking (insert sarcasm) "you two are reeeeeaaally roughing it"and I can tell you you're wrong. The Fontana Hilton is a shelter not a hotel. It is called that because it is the Hilton of all shelters on the AT. For starters it has 4 walls!!! Other shelters have 3. A regular shelter has one platform that can sleep up to 5 hikers. The Hilton has 4 platform, two low and two up top. Thats 20 hikers. Now I know you're thinking "Wow can such a Mecca exist!?!" indeed.
The rain kept coming and the inn across the street was looking better than a 3 mile walk to the shelter. We caved and went to the inn. By this time it was 4:30 and it had not stopped storming for almost 2 hours. There was a slight break in the weather so Hungus and I made a move to walk the 300 yards to the inn. While walking it started to storm again and the storm was directly on top of us. We ducked for cover under the awning of the rec center. 15 min later it slightly let up so we made a dash to the lobby. What should have been a 5 min walk turned into a 30 min ordeal. We checked in, showered up and ate a delicious dinner at the restaurant.
Tomorrow we will enter the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We have planned a 10 mile day and hope to meet back up with La Familia at the first shelter. Tonight we are in for a well deserved rest.
Sidenote: We will be in Erwin by the 13th of April. That is where we will be for my Birthday!!! Remember, what you send us we have to fit in out packs and carry.
After two hours of uphill we caught up to the rest of La Familia and took the blue blaze to the top of Shuckstack Mountain. Pace and I both ate our peanut butter and nutella wraps for lunch. The firetower was very old and didn't feel very safe but I climbed it anyway. Pace decided to stay below. At the top I could again see for days. The only sign of civilization was Fontana Village. Nothing but wilderness as far as the eye could see. I was psyched! I pulled out the map and traced the ridgelines that we will be following for the next few days.