Zero in Fontana Hilton

March 11, 2018

Destination: Fontana Hilton Shelter Today's Miles: 0

Start Location: Fontana Hilton Shelter Trip Miles: 165.50

Hungry Cat at the Fontana Hilton
I woke at about 8 today. I slept fairly well last night.

It rained off and on during the night. It was warmer in the 40s, so I ended up stripping off layers in my 20 degree bag. I like to have a base layer on and then leave a slight gap in the bag so it breathes a bit. It was nice to wake up knowing I wasn’t going to head out into the rain. Ironically, it was only just misting. I brushed my teeth and went back to the shelter to organize my laundry. Today’s plan was simple:  ELW - eat, laundry, weather. The weather forecast changed a bit and it now looked like Monday would bring 4 inches of snow in the smokies, so I started contemplating whether another zero would be a wise call. I tended to the blister on the back of my foot - lanced and drained it, then put some moleskin on it to get me to the village and back. Before hiking with it I will put Leuko tape on it to keep it nice and covered.

A bunch of us were going to the lodge to eat breakfast. While one guy called for the shuttle, I saw a few faces I didn’t recognize and asked if they got in overnight. They said yes, and then one of the guys said “Hungry Cat, I’ve been reading your journal.” I joked with him about how creepy it was because he was sitting back in the shadows on the bottom bunk. In reality, it was really awesome! They were not thru hikers - just guys up for the weekend. I had to leave so didn’t get more details or a name, but figured I would talk with them later at the shelter. The rest of us hopped in the shuttle and went to the lodge to feast. It’s the only real restaurant in Fontana Village. Breakfast was great fun! We talked a lot and I learned a little more about my hiking friends. 4 of them were leaving the shelter  to stay at the lodge tonight. I ate a breakfast burrito, a side of granola, and had a few cups of coffee (Gillian - with cream AND sugar!). It was delicious and filling. 

We went our separate ways after breakfast. A guy named Jay walked with me down to the Pit Stop. I have been calling him Morgan because he hikes with one trekking pole, and in the other hand a wooden hiking stick. It reminds me of this character from the show The Walking Dead. Jay went into the Pit Stop and I walked in to the laundry. There were a few hikers already there, but there was a free washing machine. They didn’t have a change machine or detergent for sale, or any staff, so I walked back to the Pit Stop to get that stuff. When I got back to the laundry I did the best I could to clean everything. I left my shorts on but went shirtless under my rain jacket. I thought about tying my puffy around my naked waist so I could wash my shorts, but I couldn’t figure out how to avoid exposing myself to someone in either end, so I gave up. And hey, I’m a classy guy after all! I popped my coins in and sat down to wait. I didn’t have a phone signal at the lodge or laundry, but I had brought my AWOL guide book to do some planning.  In true hiker trash fashion, I checked around behind the washing machines for a free outlet to charge my electronics. Voila! I plugged them in to charge and starting looking at my next resupply. Gatlinburg was only 3 days away, but I really wanted to try and avoid going there. It’s not that close to the trail, and my Smokies permit is for 8 days. I figured it would take me 6 days to get through the Smokies, assuming the weather doesn’t become a major problem. So, my plan is to hike in with 6 days of supplies and then I have a safety net with Gatlinburg at day 3 - I can make a game time decision. Otherwise, I would look to resupply at Davenport Gap with just enough food to get me over Max Patch and into Hot Springs. That’s the “plan”- ha! Most of my plans so far have required adaptation. The one thing that worries me is ice in the Smokies. I do not have micro spikes and am hoping not to need them. We shall see. It could be really slow going making even 10 mile days gruelingly difficult. I’m assuming that will be the case so that I am mentally prepared. The trail will decide and will provide, so I am not going to worry but I will focus on smart, safe decisions. 

Squatch came into the laundry room when my clothes were almost done drying. He said some of the same things from the night before. Kind of reminded me of myself in that regard! I’m going to be like a parrot when I’m older. He mentioned the need for ice spikes in the Smokies. I don’t know about that, but I know I hope he is wrong for when I get there! I’m sure the hiking will be slow going in the snow, but hopefully not that slick! I walked back to the Pit Stop and got some snacks and a cherry coke. I picked up one more Idahoan mashed potato mix. There - that would keep me safe through the icy Smokies! In case of ice, sprinkle down mashed potato dust. Wait three seconds. Hike on safely!

I walked back up to the lodge to eat lunch. I had a coffee and a blackened chicken sandwich on flatbread. I ordered a Philly cheese steak and fries to go for the shelter. I knew I would be hungry later and didn’t want to cook from my food supply. Plus, this was a good chance to rebuild my strength. I paid my bill and went outside to catch the shuttle, and lucky me, the shuttle was right there waiting!

When I got back to the shuttle there were a bunch of other hikers there. New faces! Cole and his friend were there. I met Sparrows and Ploovey (spelling?). The guy Rivers was making a pair of snowshoes! Yep.... he was the guy who helped relay the lost glove I found back to its owner at NOC. See my photos for a picture of Rivers with one of his homemade snowshoes. I looked for the hikers from this morning who recognized me from this trail journal. They were gone, sadly. BUT, when I climbed up to my top bunk, they had left me trail magic!! They left a little bag with leftover snacks they had. They also included a little note of encouragement with it. Ron and you guys from Rome, GA, thanks for the love! Sorry I didn’t get back from chores in time to chat and grab a photo with you guys. I hope you enjoyed your stay at the Fontana Hilton! Thanks for helping feed this hungry Cat!! People on the trail are just awesome. It’s also nice that those guys were from GA, since I’m not in my home state anymore. 

I chatted a bit with some folks including a guy named Bugler (bugle er). He may be taking the name Tennessee as he wears a Tennessee jacket and isn’t from TN, so it makes for a conversation. I chatted with Gillian since the signal here is good. I finished my take away sandwich and then ate an ice cream sundae flavored pop tart. It’s like I’m 8 again! There was lots of chatter around the shelter, but as I type this we are wrapping things up and winding down. I’m going to make a game time decision tomorrow as to whether I push on. We shall see....

It was awesome to rest and eat and get my clothes clean today. It was super cool to meet someone who had read the journal today, and I am grateful for their kindness and trail magic. Thanks all for the awesome guest book entries! Terry and crew, good luck with q end and all that goes with it! I’m experiencing a different type of “character building now!  Squatch is doing one final performance for the shelter crew before bed :-)

Life is good!

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