Normally each day's hike is carefully planned out as to mitigate any bumps along the way. What made things a little more complicated for this hike is that we are required to obtain a permit in order to hike and camp within the Smoky Mountains. This requires you to make a reservation ahead of time for any shelter or campsite that you may be staying at overnight. Not only were we beginning our hike midday but we were about to climb over 3,000 feet in elevation over the next 11 miles.
After making some calculations, I narrowed down our Friday game plan to two options...hike 5.2 miles to Birch Spring Gap and camp for the night there or push forward to Mollie's Ridge Shelter which was 10.3 miles from Fontana Dam. Since we started at 2pm, I was confident that Birch Spring Gap was within reach but pushing forward to Mollie's with daylight fading was a gamble.