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[at-l] Springer Mountain GA to Fontana Dam NC - Part 4


Springer Mountain GA to Fontana Dam NC - Part 4

< Part 3 ended at Mile 106.8 - Winding Stair Gap (US Route 64) >

*** From Winding Stair Gap (mile 106.8) to Wayah Bald (mile 116.9), seven of
the ten miles are uphill.  Nothing particularly severe - but you may wish to
adjust your mileage accordingly ...

Mile 110.5 - Siler Bald Shelter

I have never ventured in to look this shelter over.  I do know that you can
miss part of the white blaze trail if you go into the shelter one way and
out the other (in other words, there are two entrances).  An Avery
checkpoint is being built here...

Mile 111.0 - Siler Bald

Nifty bald.  The trail does not climb over the top, but the short side trip
up is worthwhile.  On a good night, pitch your tent and watch the stars...

Mile 112.7 - Wayah Gap (NC 1310)

Also known as Wayah Crest.  Very nice picnic area with his-and-her privies.
The privies make a great wind break on a cold blustery day.  No camping is
permitted here, but if you scout around you may find some out-of-the-way
places.  Across the paved road is the beginning of the gravel road (USFS
69)that you will be paralleling as you climb towards Wayah Bald...

*** There are several tenting possibilities between Wayah Gap and Wayah

Mile 115.0 - Wine Spring

The Databook indicates camping here.  If you are into tenting on a slope, go
for it.  I prefer something a bit more FLAT...

*** Just before Wine Spring, the yellow blazed Bartram Trail connects to the
Appalachian Trail.  The two trails co-exist for over two miles...

Mile 116.9 - Wayah Bald

I like this place.  You come up out of the woods to find a portion of the
Appalachian Trail has been paved for wheelchair access - AND you find some
spiffy his-and-her privies.  If you follow the trail (the paved walkway) for
about 0.1 mile, you will come across a very nice observation tower.  The
view is of the valley where Franklin NC is located.  Even though there is a
really nice flat area surrounding the tower, no camping is allowed.  If you
have had it for the day, turn around and go back to the privies, then head
0.1 mile up the gravel road.  The "bald" is actually up there.  Plenty of
room for tenting, plus a number of picnic tables and garbage cans - AND a
broader view than from the observation tower...

*** There are tenting possibilities on the Appalachian Trail within 0.5
miles north of Wayah Bald...

Mile 121.4 - Burningtown Gap (NC Route 1397)

There is a gravel parking area here at the end of a gravel forest road.  A
number of older - gated or not usable - roads continue on from the parking
area.  The gap is de-forested.  All of this makes for some available

Mile 122.6 - Cold Spring Shelter

If you are prone to hike without looking up much, you will literally bump
into this shelter.  It is not positioned beside the trail, it is positioned
ON THE TRAIL.  A "cold spring" runs freely (generally) right in front of
this shelter.  The last time I was there, a tiny little bird yogi'd the

*** An interesting anecdote.  There is a lengthy climb up to the Cold Spring
Shelter.  During my 1997 hike, I was in-my-zone, just chugging away up the
hill.  A fellow further up the hill was resting.  He saw me, and became
frightened.  I guess I looked out-of-place - no pack, long hair, big beard,
moving a thousand miles-an-hour.  This fellow began furiously trying to
remove the round plastic guards at the bottom of his Leki poles - the ones
that keep the poles from sinking deep into the ground - so that if I turned
out to be the madman he figured I was - he could use his poles to stab me to

Mile 126.2 - Tellico Gap (NC Route 1365)

This gravel forest road parallels the power lines that tower above.  There
are a number of parking alcoves that are bordered by tiers of creosote
soaked railroad ties.  These railroad ties are tempting to sit on, so be
careful of where you put your butt, for the tar can be difficult to remove.
Tenting within the alcoves is possible, and also under one of the towers.  T
his road actually gets a good deal of traffic, so don't tent alone...

Mile 127.6 - Wesser Bald

When you reach the ridgeline, the Appalachian Trail turns left.  If you turn
right, there is a wonderful observation deck, and some tenting
possibilities.  On a nice night roll you bag out on the deck...

Mile 128.4 - Wesser Bald Shelter

Nice shelter with picnic table under the roof.  The blue blazed Wesser Creek
Trail - the old Appalachian Trail - heads down off of the ridgeline from
here, switchbacking nicely.  If your knees are just killing you - and you
can't bear the thought of a steep descent and rock-hopping on your way to
the Nantahala River, then take this trail.  It gets you to the end of a
paved road that then gets you to US Route 19 about a mile East of the
Appalachian Trail.  There is a well stocked convenience store at Route 19...

*** The terrain as shown on the profile maps between Wesser Bald Shelter and
the Nantahala River has little to do with reality.  PUDS
(pointless-ups-and-downs) are the order of the day for a couple of miles
before the trail makes its dive to the river.  Some hikers find this to be a
very irritating portion of the trail...

Mile 133.3 - A. Rufus Morgan Shelter

This is a very popular shelter.  You can spend the night here, then head for
the NOC facilities in the morning...

Mile 134.1 - Nantahala River (US Route 19)

This area is also known as Wesser.  Outfitter - restaurants - showers - rest
rooms - benches - soda machines - pay phones - laundry - bunkhouses -
rafting - and all "hiker-friendly".  The weekends are a bit nuts, so you may
not find overnight facilities...

*** I am always thrilled to be here.  There is an excitement here.  The
hustle and bustle, for some reason, does not seem out of place for me.  I
guess it is because there is no formality here.  Hikers actually blend in.
You are welcomed - not because you are an oddity - but because you are

Mile 141 - Sassafras Gap Shelter

A crappy little shelter which looks like it will slide off of its mounts at
any time - but a very welcome sight after the tough climb to get here...

Mile 142.2 - Cheoah Bald

When I hiked past here, the visibility was 20 feet.  I have been told that
this is one of the premier view points along the entire Appalachian Trail...

Mile 147.7 - Stecoah Gap (NC Route 143)

A very cold and windy spot, that is also very inviting.  There are two
picnic tables, plus trash cans - and the views are great.  If you hike a few
feet down the gated forest road - around a bend or two - you can pitch your
tents in relative obscurity...

*** To find the water, follow these instructions exactly:  Turn West along
paved Route 143 for maybe 50 feet until you reach a gravel forest road on
the left.  Follow the forest road for maybe 100 feet to a (hopefully)
flowing spring.  This doesn't sound difficult, but hikers are always
complaining about not being able to find the water source.  There are
actually blue blazes to follow, but they are faded...

Mile 150.1 - Brown Fork Gap Shelter

There are some very step climbs along the trail in this area.  Generally the
hikers that spend the night in this shelter are grumbling a bit...

Mile 155.3 - Yellow Creek Mountain Road

Before you get to this road, you may see signs tacked to trees along the
trail hyping a motel or two.  Best to just keep on hiking.  These motels are
a good distance trail and may be full...

Mile 156.2 - Cable Gap Shelter

A shelter that is too close to the road.  It can be trashed out at times,
and full of local partiers on weekends...

Mile 161.7 - Fontana Lake Marina area (NC Route 28)

You can call from the boat dock to get a shuttle to Fontana Village (post
office, motel, hostel, restaurant, groceries, health club), or just hitch
West two miles.  You can also pick up your permits for hiking through the
Smokies at the information board near the rest rooms...

*** The next mile of trail to the Fontana "Hilton" Shelter is very
irritating.  All you want to do is get to the shelter, or to the Fontana
Dam, but the trail club has decided to remind you that you are still on the
Appalachian Trail.  This portion of the trail is paved with four letter

Mile 162.8 - Fontana Dam "Hilton" Shelter

Even though the side trail (a paved and gated access roadway) to the shelter
is clearly marked, many hikers just pass it by, not realizing it until they
reach the dam.  I imagine some of these hikers are still focused on
grumbling about the last mile of hiking and just aren't paying attention.
Permits for the Smokies can be found near the shelter...

Mile 163.1 - Fontana Dam

Phones and Showers.  Hey, who needs more?  Call from here for shuttles to
Fontana Village or the Hike Inn, or take a shower and head into the



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