Down & Dirty from the AT

Just in case my last post was confusing, I suppose should clear the air about something pretty important:

AT @ Fontana Dam

Our hike was FABULOUS… with the exception of that last day.

Mr. Dirty, the Dirty Boy – hereafter known as Frodo, the Hiking Ninja, and I all made it to the Fontana Dam just about sunset. Sleeping in the shelter would have been the simplest sleeping arrangements; however, I wasn’t comfortable with having Hiking Ninja (Frodo’s sweet & courageous girlfriend) sleep in shelter with strange men. All of you strange men out there Sleeping in shelters, pay attention: don’t take it personally. She’s young, New to the hiking world, and someone I want to protect.

Since sleeping in the shelter wasn’t an option (much to the chagrin of Mr. Dirty), we set about hanging our hammocks among some trees along the trail. The hang sites weren’t ideal, but they gave us a much needed respite from the bugs that were circling in hopes of draining our blood and the rain that came later that night.


In the morning, we awoke to a glorious sunrise over the dam. We had several hours to wait for our hiking companions, Hinky Di-Di & Ninja Lumberjack, to make it so we set out exploring the dam-area. At the visitor’s center, I spent some time talking with the volunteer husband and wife team who travel from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, every year to work at the center for two weeks. We met a hiker who rode a greyhound bus for 28 hours just to hike through Smilies. We met a hiker in FULL Russian military uniform, who – even though he was a Russian-American – had never served in the Russian military. Just goes to show, hikers come in every shape, size, and background. So awesome!

DSCF5534 DSCF5531

Because we got a late start, we only made it two miles before setting up camp in the pouring rain. Setting up camp in the rain – with fading light – stinks, but it could have been much worse. The beautiful thing about sleeping in hammocks is that your hammock stays dry. When you set your tent up in the rain, the inside gets wet before you get your rain fly put put on. With the hammock, you can put the rain fly up first & everything stays dry. It’s a beautiful thing!

On the way to Cable Gap shelter

The hike to the Cable Gap shelter was pretty uneventful and did very little to prepare us for the climb to Brown Fork shelter. It wasn’t that hike was that difficult – just that it seemed to go on forever. It almost felt like hiking on a treadmill where you really aren’t going anywhere. Mr. Dirty kept saying, “It’s just around the corner.” The mild mannered Hiking Ninja probably felt like pushing him off the side of the mountain. I know that I did!! The view from the summit was an awesome site and a great reward for the long hike.

DSCF5551 summit

The next morning was all up hill, literally. From Brown Forks shelter to Sassafrass shelter, you gain about 1500 feet in elevation in nine miles. It’s not the most killer climb on the Appalachian Trail, but it was gruelling. In the middle of never ending switchbacks, Frodo decided to take a short cut and ended up entangled in a nest of thorns. He learned the hard way to respect the trail and that there are no short cuts!
All of the hard work paid off when we made it to the top of Cheoah Bald. Words can not describe the awesome and amazing sight that waited for us at the top. Even the exhaustion we felt from the climb was not enough to stifle the excitement from the view.

gap kids

As tempting as it was to camp right there on the summit, we hiked another mile to Sassafrass Gap shelter. That mile was perhaps the most joyous mile ever. Everyone was eager to settle into camp and eat. Hiking Ninja actually giggled,”I’m so happy I could jump up and down if my feet didn’t hurt!”

When you are struggling to climb a beast of a mountain, you almost forget to enjoy the views and the company.

The Gang at Cable Gap Shelter

Frodo hiked almost the whole trip in his bare Hobbit feet and never complained about them hurting. I was wowed (Is that a real word? Autocorrect says it is so it must be!) by his strength and tenacity… wonder where he gets that from?!

Frodo's Hobbit Feet feet

This girl… she is amazing.

kaitie smile

It didn’t matter what the trail through at her, she took it with a smile. A blister on her foot? Pssh. That’s nothing. Low on water? Low on food? Freezing cold? Rain? She still smiled.

Hinky Di-Di & Ninja Lumberjack

Hinky Di-Di & Ninja Lumberjack were great hiking partners. It’s great to see married couples enjoying a mutual hobby – especially one that exercises the body! They are new to the hiking world, and their excitement was contagious.

Mr. Dirty has always been my favorite hiking partner. Ten miles feels like two when I hike with him… unless it’s all up hill.

Mr. Dirty Mr. Dirty

I’d walk 2,000 miles – all up hill – as long as he was my partner.


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