By myself into the complete unknown
Took a nice hot shower in Fontana Dam Hilton and even dried my hair with a hair dryer! I felt a bit hoboish, but I didn’t want to be walking around with frozen hair.
Hung around Fontana til 1. Was going to hitch to 20 mile, but it’s a bit indirect from the Hilton, so figured I’d call the shuttle into town, and then hitch from there. I ended up asking the shuttle driver if he’d go all the way to Twenty Mile Ranger station…and I asked nicely, and am a girl hiking alone…so he did!!!
He was a Recreation and Tourism major in college, and sadly, had not heard of Benton MacKaye.
The roadwalk to Deal’s Gap was a wide shoulder and I felt super safe. Got to Deal’s and it was culture shock. Biker bar, leather, greasey food (I ate it–but felt gross doing so).
The roadwalk up to the BMT was thinnly shouldered after that. I didn’t know exactly where the trail restarted. I found the trail behind a pile of 10 completely filled garbage bags. “Oh Benton, this is no way to honor you!” I said aloud. For those wondering–the trail starts right at the TN/NC border–keep going up southbounders!
Nice flat forest service road for a while, until the trail got burnt and followed flagging. Not bad compared to the CDT.
The trail reached a highway right by a dam, and then went downhill along a handrail lined path. (I wasn’t sure if the path was the BMT or not, but it ended up being so). The trail crosses the Highway 129 bridge and I saw lots of boaters and kayakers out–made me think of my friend Erin. Then, it was unclear where the trail went, and I kept walking up the road past the Cheowah dam until I checked my map again and realized that the trail starts right after the northern part of the bridge. I used a Sharpie to write in “BMT Southbound” on a sign–hope that helps other southbounders!
Liz "Snorkel" Thomas
Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.