Zero at Fontana

Sunrise at the Fontana “Hilton” Shelter.

Birds woke me around seven in the morning. My tent was pretty damp, so I opened both doors to take advantage of the cool breeze coming in off the lake. The canopy seemed to be perfectly aligned, and soon I had a nice wind tunnel blowing through, drying the interior condensation. 

I walked to the bathrooms at the Hilton, which were surprisingly nice. On the men’s side are two bathroom stalls, a large single shower stall (with hot water) and two sinks. The most critical feature though, was the plug strip zip-tied in the upper corner of the bathroom. A spiders nest of charge cables, batteries, and phones were suspended there, blue and red lights blinking with life.

I packed and threw a Cliff bar in my mouth, and gathered with a few other hikers, who were waiting for the 8:30am shuttle into Fontana Village. I spoke with Rain Dancer, a class of ‘99 Thru-hiker out for her second hike of the AT. She’s always super upbeat, and even when her shoes were giving her trouble the other day, her expletives were said with a smile. A hiker from New York decided to quit that morning, and Rain Dancer and I talked to him, and made sure he had what he needed.

I had just enough service for him to call a shuttle, but it wouldn’t arrive for a few hours, so we went to Fontana Lodge for breakfast. The three of us sat and discussed a myriad of topics, from putting hiking on your resume, to building tiny houses. The coffee flowed, the eggs were fluffy, and soon our plates were spotless. 

While we ate, more rain rolled in, so I took my time and sat in the hotel lobby for a while. I had time to kill, because the Post Office wouldn’t open until 11:45am, I struck up a conversation with Special Brew, and Compton. Jolly Green Giant happened to be there, and soon we hatched a plan to split a room and zero for the night. Grubber joined in, and we split the $80 hiker rate five ways.

The Fontana Lodge is awesome. Not only were they cool with five of us in one room, they even gave Grubber an air mattress to sleep on. They let me use their computer, and print my Smokies permit for free.

We settled into the room, and Jolly asked for gear advice. Special Brew, Compton, and I gave her pack a good shakedown, probably eliminating six pounds overall. Jolly was carrying three sets of clothing, all of which were high quality, high performance brands. We convinced her that she only really needed one set, but made concessions where needed. Shakedowns are such an individual thing, so compromise is inevitable. My louffa for instance, is one piece of gear I’ll never part with on a long hike.

After picking up my resupply box, and padding it with an extra three days of food, I stopped at the grill for lunch. I had just placed my order when I saw Librarian, Pippy, and Salamander roll in, trail worn and hungry. I went over and sat with them, because they’re the kind of people who fill the air around them with positive energy. I had intended to say at the Cable Gap Shelter with them the night before, but I got annoyed with one of the guys there, which is saying something. They had a similar experience with the same hiker.

The rest of the evening involved food, and more food! I attempted to give Grubber’s pack a shakedown, but there wasn’t much to trim. Our room ended up back at the grill, wherein some patrons were already quite drunk. One of them made a point to cat call and heckle our server, who was all of sixteen, maybe seventeen years old? The ladies at our table, Special Brew in particular, assured her that she never has to put up with that. Eventually, the manager got him under control.

We headed back to the room for the night, and traded Instagram info. I was quite amazed by the quality of everyone’s photos. Far less personal (and political) than Facebook, Instagram is becoming my social media of choice. We called lights out around 10:30pm, and I slept quite satisfied at having all of my town errands complete.

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