Last night was a comedy. Berg, I and two others were the only people in the Fontana Dam shelter, so sounds amplified at night. All guys to their own corners (of course). The guy to my right was potentially the loudest sleeper I’ve ever witnessed. When he shifted sides (a side sleeper), it sounded like he was battling a hundred plastic trash bags (or Tyvec if you know what that is) in a wind storm. Loud. Then, once settled, he commenced the most random snore pattern I’ve ever heard. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was two people. Caddy-corner to Tyvec man was a guy who giggled in his sleep. Must of been a funny night. Creepy. Luckily Berg was out. That good, since he’s phobic of mice getting into his stuff. I distinctly heard a mouse chomp his way into a plastic bag and get lost. Crinkle, crinkle. I was no better. Yesterday, I ate a full lunch, large milk shake, a quart of chocolate milk, a packet of Ramen (raw), a snickers, power bar, two servings of hamburger helper topped off with some chips and two sodas. By 3am, my intestines were dealing with the onslaught rebelling with gurgles, burps and a sound like Drano in a pipe. Lastly, I intently listened to a mouse squeak very near me, sitting up in the dark, for about five minutes until I realized my nose had a whistle in one nostril. It was me. Stupid nose.
This morning I woke up at 7am, to Tyvec man packing up to leave. I was up. I went up to the overlook of Fontana Lake and the morning scene of stillness and distant mountains called for a painting. It was a perfect time to learn how paint the mountains quickly before the light changes the feel of the view. (For artists: I’ll put a link to En Plein Air Blog article here). While painting, I met Brent and his wife, the couple who tent was in a precious painting, Jesus (“hey-zus”) and Chief Loco before walking into the Smokey Mountains and another fellow hiker who turned out to be an art framer. Without knowing it, I’m coming to know the loose network of hikers traveling alongside that forms a “family”. It’s a comfort to know we’re forming into a community.

This is a day of new foods and drinks: Lunch at Bojangles! “All You Can Eat” sign posted up led the way for us, Littlefoot erupting into a small cheer. Two plates later, we sat absolutely stuffed. Next, Cheerwine and Nehi (“knee-high”) sodas. Mmm. Real Cane Sugar. My pancreas is working overtime now. Nearest movie theater with a decent movie? One hour away? We all pitch in for gas and we’re off! Where did we go? Hiawassee, the place where I started this trip. Ha. Ironic. In one hour we can now reach a point without much thought. In a single day on the trail, so much happens its hard to remember all the events. It’s been 12 days. One hour / 12 days, which route would you prefer? Obviously, one is easier; one is fulfilling.

About ten people sat around the campfire at the shelter last nighr swapping stories and laughing. I met a retired english teacher from Pennsylvania and talked about some pretty deep life thoughts. Although he hikes alone most times (20-24 mi/day), he agrees that hiking with another changes the entire experience for the better. We aren’t meant to be alone. We had so much in common that if I could imagine an older me, it would be very much like him: nerdy, happy, independent, and connected with family and friends who he loves and who loves him.

Last in-town check for packages and we’re off to the Smokies. It seems a bit much to have two zero days, but it was great! We plan to do 11 miles up a steep grade today w possible storms in the afternoon.

Fontana Dam scene was impressive being the largest on the east coast, but the rhinoceros beetle Littlefoot found on the dam the highlight for me.  I can now say with scientific certainty, they don’t fly.  I was waiting for the wings to deploy as it headed down a 40 ft drop to soft pillowy grasses below.  I’m sure in bug languages it expresses everything from curses to “MAYDAY-MAYDAY, GOING DOWN!”. We  had a huge thunderstorm (umbrella is perfect) – except for the lightening part.  I ran across a young German couple drenched and tired.  The lady looked like she was in despair, no hope.  Turns out they stopped 100 ft from the shelter, not knowing it was just around the bend tucked away in the trees. I dropped my pack off at the shelter and headed back to help, but they were already on their way, hand up and cheering as I motioned that they were so close. They got to shelter just in time.  The storm turned really ugly with high winds, sideways rain and branches cracking. Littlefoot and Berg annailated, showed up in the middle of it. After getting into dry clothes and eating, I set out to paint the dense, foggy scene outside the shelter. We are IN a cloud –> painting with quick dry acrylics (look half way down the page) .. Won’t dry! It’s around 9pm and everyone’s getting ready for bed.