It's April 11, 2014 and I'm ready to clip off some more miles on the AT. I have to admit that I'm a little apprehensive about this section due to the distance (32.4 miles) and the fact that my end goal of Clingmans Dome is the highest elevation point on the entire AT (6,643 ft.). Also this stretch of the AT doesn't have any "exit points" along the way...once you are out there, you're out there. There is no greater motivation than having no other options but to finish the hike. As usual, I put out some requests to see who wanted to join me on this trip and luckily one of my buddies, Kurt Kreuger, took the bait.
Kurt was driving in from the Charlotte area and I was driving in from the Winston-Salem area. The drive there was around 3.5 hours for each of us. Our plan was to meet up at Clingmans Dome on Friday around Noon, leave one of our vehicles there and then head over to Fontana Dam to start our hike. As soon as we stepped out of our cars at Clingmans Dome, we immediately noticed that the temperature was a bit colder than expected....sunny skies but cold wind. The forecast for the weekend couldn't have been better...highs in low 80's and lows in the mid 40's, but the higher elevation didn't hold true to that. We hoped the weather would hold up since Kurt only packed shorts and I only had a pair of thin hiking pants.
After a brief glimpse across the mountainous landscape that would be our home for the next couple of days, we load our gear into my vehicle and make our way towards Fontana Dam. The drive from Cingmans to Fontana doesn't seem that far on a map but it actually takes about one and a half hours when driving through the tedious mountain roads. We finally arrive at the Fontana Dam Visitors Center around 2:00 pm, gear up and head into the woods.