North Carolina - 34.1 Mile AT Section Hike

Updated: Mar 15

Appalachian Trail Section Hike - 34.1 miles

North Carolina: Fontana Dam to Clingmans Dome

7 July to 9 July, 2017

NoBo Hike. Three people.

This was a tough hike. The mileage per day was only a little bit aggressive. Coupled with the altitude changes, and the humidity in the Smoky Mountain National Forest, this became a very challenging hike. This was a NOBO hike, group of three (me, my college friend Andy, and Marc). This hike included over 9,000 feet of climbing due to the elevation changes throughout. Not much scenery on this stretch of the AT. We spent the majority of our time in the trees.

Water sources were located exactly where the AT trail maps indicated. It had been a wet summer.

Day one we hiked 11 miles with an elevation gain of 3,000 feet. We encountered a brief rain shower during lunch. I had my lightweight tarp, so we quickly pitched it and enjoyed a dry lunch. We started around 8:30am this day which allowed us to reach Mollies Ridge Shelter in time to relax before dinner.

Lunch under my tarp during a rain shower. Andy and Marc appreciated me carrying it.

Day two was 12 miles, and involved some challenges. We decided to make it to Rocky Top for lunch, which was was nearly 7 miles from Mollies Ridge Shelter. The final ascent to Rocky Top was difficult so we remained there for a good hour to rest and recover.

The first rumbles of thunder appeared just as we hoisted our packs. It was far off in the distance. Barely discernible but definitely there. Just over a mile from Rocky Top we gained visibility to the west. The thunder was now close and we could see what was coming. All three of us donned our pack covers. The raincoats could wait. Five minutes later the rain started. Two of us pulled out raincoats, one did not. That would be me. Yes. I was the idiot on this particular day.

Rocky Top. One of our few views during the 33 mile hike.

I discuss my mistake in more detail in this article.

Dinner at Derrick Knob Shelter, where we spent the night, was a morale booster to say the least.

Day three was 10.3 miles and mostly uneventful. We made it to Clingmans Dome by around 3:00pm, and I was home in time for a late dinner.

When hiking in the Smoky Mountains, you have to do two things. Get a permit, and reserve a spot in the shelters where you plan to stay. This places you on a bit of a schedule. You are permitted to stay in a shelter other than what you reserved for unexpected situations like weather. But still, mentally it places you on a schedule and we fought to maintain that schedule.

This photo was taken less than 1 mile from Clingmans Dome, which was fogged in when we arrived.

My Mistakes

  • Again going out with a pack too heavy. Right around 43 pounds.

  • Despite having read about the dangers of hypothermia in the mountains, I decided against putting on my raincoat when we were broadsided by a thunderstorm

What I did right

  • For my hiking clothes, I wore my athletic clothing. No chaffing and my hiking clothes were not completely soaked each morning

  • I carried a good mixture of food and snacks with kept my electrolytes up while drinking loads of water

  • Carrying my lightweight tarp. Yes, it’s extra space and weight, but it came in handy

  • I purchased quality, comfortable boots for this hike. No feet issues at all.

#backpacking #hiking #camping #appalachiantrail #smokymountains #sectionhik

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