Follow the Adventure of a Lone Hiker on the Appalachian Trail – Update 19: The End is Near

Hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail is no easy feat, especially not when you’re doing it alone.

In this series, we’re following along with a lone hiker doing exactly that, and in update 19 we hear about the Fontana Dam and approaching the end of the trail.

Catch Up on Colorado’s Adventure Right Here

Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.

It may not be the exact type of off-roading you’re used to seeing on TFLoffroad, but getting into the wilderness under your own power is certainly one of the most enjoyable ways to do so.

So enjoy the latest update from the trail, and stay tuned for more:

Greetings once again from the other side of the Smokies. After Rocky joined me at Davenport Gap last Saturday, we spent the next six days negotiating the AT as it followed the spine of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We were blessed with perfect weather most of the time. We had hoped to see some bears along the way, or at least some feral pigs that somehow got introduced into the park years ago, but saw neither. It continues to amaze me how few animals I’ve seen along the trail. We felt like we hit the wildlife jackpot on Friday when we came across a toad in the trail. It’s a low bar. 

Aside from a blister on her toe, Rocky was a champ on the trail. However, I started to reconsider whether she had cultivated enough of “the look” of a thru-hiker when we passed someone on the trail who commented how fresh she looked and how white her shirt was. You be the judge:

Her freshness was all the more obvious whenever I provided contrast by standing next to her. 

Sunshine and Moonshine –

While we had usually sunny skies during the day, we found out that it just wouldn’t be Appalachia without a little moonshine in the evening. At the tent site on our third night out, a NOBO showed up and passed around a bottle of “home brew” moonshine, and it was amazingly good! I had tried moonshine for the first time a couple of weeks earlier, courtesy of my cousin Scott. When he offered some up, I was certain it was going to taste nothing short of rocket propellant. But no, it was pretty tasty stuff. Don’t underestimate those backwoods distillers!

These Boots Were Made for Walking –

My first pair of Salomon boots lasted about 900 miles on the trail and had to be disposed of by a HAZMAT crew. I just said a eulogy for my second pair of Salomons, which toughed out another 1,100 miles of trail. Pieces of tread were falling off, the sole of one was starting to separate from the boot, one actually squeaked with every step, and I wasn’t sure they would carry me to Fontana. Somehow they did, just barely, and fortunately I had a new pair of Keens waiting for me on our arrival, thanks to Rocky forwarding them here ahead of time. NOW who’s going to be looking fresh out on the trail?

A Momentous May Day –

May 1 was quite a day in terms of milestones. We crossed Clingmans Dome, the state high point of Tennessee at 6,643 ft. This was the sixth and final state high point I’ll cross on the trail. Unfortunately, the morning we were there was the one and only foggy, windy and chilly morning we had all week. Fun nonetheless:

Clingmans Dome is also the highest point on the entire AT, which is hard to believe when I think back on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, which towered well above timberline and reminded me of Pikes Peak. 

May 1 was also the day I passed the 2,000 mile mark on the trail. I’m now at 2,027 miles and have 164 miles left to go. 

Other Views from the Trail-

Looking fresh on top of Charlie’s Bunion:

A campsite in the woods:

The trees over that campsite:

The best dam sight we’ve seen yet:

Fontana Dam was built on the Little Tennessee River in the early 40’s during World War II to provide electricity to power wartime manufacturing plants. At the time, it was the fourth largest dam in the world and today remains the largest dam east of the Mississippi River. The AT goes right across the top. 

And now less than two weeks remain of this incredible journey. When the breeze comes from the south, I’m occasionally getting a whiff of the finish line. And that gives me mixed emotions.