Cable gap to Fontana dam to Cookeville 

After I left Cable Gap, I had a decent-ish evening of walking. It definitely wasn’t an easy 7 miles like Dr Love said. There was quite a bit of uphill. And I had my second fall of the day:  
 I live here now. Just kidding.
But I covered the last 4 miles in an hour and a half, and that included stopping to upload all of those pictures and that blog post AND to pout when I fell. So, pretty good time. The last mile was in the dark. I said hi and bye to my car:


And kept on walking.
The Fontana Dam shelter is commonly known as the Fontana Hilton and WITH GOOD REASON. First, though, ok. I walked up and there was a dude here who told me he had thru hiked back in 2003 but now he’s taking some firefighting hazmat course and didn’t want to pay to stay at Fontana Village so he’s staying here. He offered me a beer and I accepted. Yum. I took the beer down to the bathroom which was HEATED and sat under the HEATED hand dryer and warmed up.



When I was toasty inside and outside (remember dinner was 7 hours ago and my body, at this point, had suddenly had violent flashbacks to the tail end of the January hike so I’d been starving since 6.5 miles ago) I headed back to the shelter. I flipped to the shelter log until I found what I was looking for. First, I saw Pajamas, the friendly bearded stranger I met on the trail one day. Then I found Carpenter and Gonzo.

It was nice to see their names. Every second of the hike it felt like I was hearing their voices in my head. My physical therapist had recommended that I walk down hills with a wide stance, and as I did that I could hear Gonzo saying “sometimes I pretend downhills are like skislopes and go from side to side.” (More on the wide stance later.) As I ate my ramen I could see Gonzo pulling out his ramen and discussing optimal cooking technique with…Otis? I can’t remember. And as I finished up my big miles, ripping down the trail, I could hear Carpenter saying “you’re keeping up with the big boys now!” Wouldn’t they be proud of me if they could see me flying down the trail? My knees were doing so well today I really could have been keeping up with the big boys. Maybe. Almost.
So it was nice to find their names in the shelter log. I texted them, of course. And heard about their time here. I was glad I decided to come here instead of staying at cable gap. I mean, I got a beer AND a heated bathroom.
Ok, so back to the wide stance. My physical therapist recommended the wide stance for downhills, and it really seemed to help, so then I thought, well, why not uphills too? And then I started thinking, men walk like this ALL the time. And I bet they have way fewer knee problems. So I started walking with a wide stance (basically so my knees and hips are in alignment) and I felt so powerful. My legs were flexed and my butt was flexed and I was taking up more room on the trail and it was like my own version of manspreading (google it) but on the trail and of course I moved over if anyone came my way (no one came my way except those two thru hikers and we just stopped and chatted so it didn’t matter). I even like…gave a primal dinosaur growl at one point. It felt awesome. So that’s my new hiking technique and I highly recommend it.
Tomorrow (today? When am I posting this???) I hike a mile back to my car and then I drive to school and take a shower at the gym with their weird soap and scrounge for cleanish clothes and start studying hardcore. Legit plan.

****

Ok so today (this is Sunday) I woke up early (sleeping bag selfie)


Had a rough moment in the bathroom because 1. I have got to figure out food (I am Not Good at food) and 2. I slept like crap (this is a Pee Pants talk)


and went down to see Fontana Dam. This is for all you enginerds, like me.






Then I went back to the shelter to pack up and have breakfast.


  
I didn’t want to leave at all. But like my heat transfer professor says, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and differentiate the durn thing.  I was feeling a little demotivated, obviously, so I decided to channel speed demon Gonzo and listen to music. It worked. I got to my car in record time.



And, of course, I couldn’t leave without wishing Carpenter a happy birthday from the trail.


Happy birthday, Carpenter! (Wish you were here!)
The drive back was nice. Only got a little lost, and driving the dragon again was fun.
And now I’m back at school.  I think I smell passably decent but we shall see. Ready to get some studying done and this heat transfer review session over with so I can go home and stretch my tired muscles. All in all my entire body held up admirably. I liked the weight I carried too. I’m still considering a new pack, but it’ll have to be something that REALLY transfers to hips comfortably. And I might switch to a closed cell pad (foam) just to get moving faster.

And if anyone wants to buy me a P*style I will be happy to review that on my next section hike 🙂
Next up: THE SMOKIES TO HOT SPRINGS! What a spring break trip that’ll be, huh?


  
  


Until next time! I love you all!!

Weekend Section: The Plan

After that big January trip, I felt like I was on top of the world. Seriously, I had the confidence of ten Amazonian women. I walked into all of my classes like I was the smartest engineering student to ever engineer. And it was magical. Even my personal life felt perfect. Everything was just…perfect.

And then it started falling apart. Slowly. Like energy moving through a concrete block or something. I don’t know. First came the Mechanical Engineering Analysis project that was all differential equations by hand. Then came the uncertainty in my personal life. Then came the crying and the doubt and the dreams about all the mistakes I’ve ever made.

So I’m headed out this weekend to try to regain a little confidence in myself again. We’ll see if it works. Right now I don’t feel like I’m capable of even the simplest gear train problem. I don’t feel like I can read situations correctly or trust my instincts at all. And a weekend isn’t very long, but maybe it’s long enough.

Unfortunately, I have a Heat Transfer test on Tuesday night, and a Materials and Processes in Manufacturing test on Tuesday morning, so I’ll be bringing some work with me on this trip. The good news is it looks like I’ve got my pack weight down quite a bit. Right around 17lbs this time. Of course, that’s without a tent. I’m thinking I’ll go without this time, but I might still throw it in at the last minute. Or I might just throw in a pencil and some notes instead. We’ll see.

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So I’m headed NOBO on this quick little trip. This is the real plan, but since there’s a Heat Transfer review on Sunday at 2 pm, I’m might *try* and do 23.3 miles on Saturday to get to my car and just have to drive out on Sunday. We’ll see how the knee holds up. I’ve had a few days of physical therapy and I feel stronger already (like a horse!) so maybe I’ll be alright.

Or maybe I’ll just spend the whole weekend crying. It’ll be cathartic.

 

(Oh! If you’re wondering about Tellico Gap to NOC, I actually did that section back in November with some friends. But I’m planning on doing it again with a friend from school when it gets a little warmer.)