AT Thru-Hike Day 19

Fontana Marina (1,706 feet) mile 164.4 to Russell Field Shelter (4,344 feet) mile 180.8 for a 16.5 mile day, my longest mileage to date. Ascended 5,013 feet and descended 2,459 feet, for a grade of 457 feet per mile.

Today started early, we left the Hiker Inn at 8:00 so we could drop some other folks off at a different spot on trail, and then went to the Fontana Marina parking area where we got off trail to start out day. Thankfully, there was a restroom at the parking lot, early morning coffee. Haha after that was done, we hit the trail. It was a 2.2 mile hike with a little up hill followed by down hill to get to the Fontana Dam. What a dam site it was to see!!

Fontana dam looking over the back side

We walked the half mile or so across the top of the dam and then followed a road, first road walk of the hike, where we later entered back into the woods on trail.

Permit drop before continuing into the park

We put our permits in the box and hiked on. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park requires a $20 permit to thru-hike, and you have 8 days to make it through the park on trail. The permit only gives us the right to hike the AT and no other trails. Here our climb began, 3.5 miles and up 2,075 feet with the top of that first climb being to Shuckstack fire tower (3,993 feet).

Shuckstack fire tower

This shaky little fire tower provided some amazing views for our first views inside the park. At the base of the tower were the remains of a fire wardens cabin.

Wardens cabin remains

We continued from here for another 3.5 miles with a 1,121 foot climb to Doe Knob (4,493 feet). The grass is green and the flowers are making themselves known around these parts, but the leaves on the trees, why want nothing to do with it right now.

From mile here we continue on for another 3 miles to Mollies Ridge Shelter mile 177.7 (4,583 feet)

Mollies ridge shelter

and stop to make camp, even though I was feeling good! After looking for a tent spot, seeing a warning about heightened bear activity and having no cell service, I talked with Kelly and she said it was okay for me to go on to the next shelter without her if I wanted to, so I decided to press on. I went another 3.2 miles to Russell Field Shelter (4,344 feet) mile 180.8!

Russell field shelter

Currently my longest miles to date! It felt great. Now I’m in my tent doing my nightly leg and foot massage and texting with my amazing girlfriend, Suzanna, back home in Charlotte.

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