I think the lesson that the trail is trying to teach me right now is plan nothing, be ready for everything. As much as you can plan in advance for the next few days sometimes something just happens and you’ve just got to go with it.
After leaving our interview and Hot Springs behind we decided that since the weather was calling for rain for the next few days that we would do the section from Fontana Dam to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and head back to the Smoky’s after that. This, again, sounded like a good plan. It was going to be a three hour drive from Hot Springs to Fontana Dam, so we all got comfy, turned the tunes up and headed south.
About two hours into the trip it hit me like a ton of bricks, food poisoning. I was so incredibly sick it was just awful. We had decided to stay at Brown Fork Gap and head north into Fontana Dam the next day. It was pouring so hard all night while I was just so sick. Thank goodness Dion was there to take care of Christian and me; I was completely out of it. The next day, the rain continued. It was cold and rainy and I just felt awful. I didn’t want Christian and Dion to leave, but I knew they had to go hike so I helped them pack up and sent them on their way. They had a pretty good day once they got to a lower elevation. They were out of the clouds, and out of the rain. They hurried along at a great pace and finished about 15 miles by mid-afternoon. I spent the whole day completely out of commission at the gas station/café that seemed to be the only thing open in Fontana Dam this time of year. We wanted to check out the Fontana Hilton, everyone has told us is the nicest shelter on the trail. It is definitely the only shelter we’ve seen with showers, hot showers too! The rain had cleared by the time Buddy and Dion finished, but the fog had rolled in. The Hilton, as the Fontana Gap shelter is called, sits overlooking the dam, has a firepit and picnic tables right next to it. It really is a nice shelter. It is also only 300 yards from the parking lot, which was really nice because although it was so close, while so sick, it seemed like forever.
When we got to the shelter we met Cody Coyote. We have heard many tales about Cody. He’s like the Chuck Norris of the trail, each story outdoing the next. He’s an interesting fellow. He’s in his early 20’s and got on the trail about 4 years ago and has been yo-yoing north and south ever since. That’s all we have to tell about our meeting with Cody. We were also lucky to get to stay with two brothers we met at Standing Bear unfortunately I can’t remember their names. It’s so nice to still have other hikers around we really getting to stay with other hikers. It’s been a while since we’ve stayed on the trail, so it was a nice change.
In the morning I was feeling a little bit better thank goodness. We packed up, gave those brothers a ride into town, and headed back to Brown Fork Gap to head south to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Getting to the NOC is a big milestone for Dion. He attempted a thru hike two years ago, and this is where he hurt his ankle and I had to pick him up from. Unfortunately the weather didn’t feel very welcoming that day and poured down all day long. Nonstop. This wasn’t a bad day for them though, despite the weather, as always Buddy always ends the day with a smile. Even though the heavens dumped down on him all day, he came hopping into the Rivers End where I was waiting for them, again not feeling so hot. Since they had arrived soaked through and through and the rain was showing no sign of slowing down, we decided to stay at Basecamp, dry out our stuff and head back at it first thing in the morning. That night my poor little buddy woke up from the top bunk let us know that his belly wasn’t feeling good either. That’s when I found out it wasn’t food poisoning or giardia, but a dreaded stomach virus. There are few things worse while traveling than the stomach virus. All you want to do is be in your own bed at home and recover for a few days. Luckily for us Buddy is the ultimate trooper. Even though he was sick, he didn’t act it one bit. We knew we needed to post up for a few days so Buddy could recover and get back to tiptop shape. We found some friends in Franklin NC, not too far from the NOC, who have let us stay with them the past two nights and so today will be the third day off we have taken. Buddy seems to be fully recovered, but we took today off too just to be sure. The weather is great, sunny and warm, but we without good health it means nothing. Buddy has been caching up on Netflix while attached to bottles of Gatorade and water. Dion and I have been catching up on work and our book. We all went to see frozen in 3D last night and it was fantastic. We are so thankful that Buddy is feeling better and excited to get back to the trail tomorrow. We have our backpacks all set and ready to go, we are heading back to finish the Smokys over the next three days. We aren’t worrying about weather, although it looks clear, or anything else other than finishing the Smokys and booking it down to Springer. We absolutely want to get there by Christmas!