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Journal of Team 54 Tag Team Hike-Fontana Dam to Clingman's Dome 4/8-4/11

Here is the journal.

>Date: Sat, 13 Apr 1996 17:57:35 -0400
>From: Broknspoke@aol.com
>To: StepRMan@aol.com, Codeman188@aol.com, StormyHike@aol.com,
>        ATHIKER@plantnet.com, AT1996@aol.com
>Subject: Journal of Team 54 Tag Team Hike-Fontana Dam to Clingman's Dome 
>Well, the team completed the section. Conditions were certainly not optimal,
>but Gail and Joe completed the section; Gail on Wednesday and Joe on
>Thursday. Unfortunately, my knee ballooned to twice it's normal size, and I
>had to hobble out from Spence Field. Thanks for meeting us at Fontana and
>buying me breakfast. It was a pleasure meeting you! Here is my unedited
>journal of the hike. Don't feel obligated to use the entire journal in your
>email. Go ahead and delete sections and cut and paste. Thanks again for
>organizing this adventure for us. It was truly one of my finest hiking
>Team 54 Third Attempt of the AT- 4/8/96 - 4/11/96 Fontana Dam to Clingman's
>Pete Fornof - Broknspoke
>Joe Harper - Codeman188
>Gail Johnson - AT1996
>Monday - 4/8/96
>Met Joe and Andy at 9:30 at Fontana Dam. Raining & cold. Visited with them
>and Nancy (Joe's wife) until Joe hit the trail at about 10:30. Andy and I
>went up to Fontana Village for breakfast. Restaurant was closed to get ready
>for lunch but did agree to serve Andy and I sausage, biscuits, and gravy. We
>returned to the dam to wait for Gail, who was supposed to arrive at 12:00. On
>the way to the dam, we saw a thru hiker struggling up the road (big hill) in
>the rain, so we turned around and gave her a ride to the store at Fontana
>Village. Her trail name was "Skylark". Drove back to the dam and met with two
>more thru hikers, Speedo and Bandana Lite from Columbus, Ohio. Speedo is a
>CPA and worked for a big six accounting firm but decided to chuck it all to
>hike the AT. Cool idea! I gave these guys a ride to Fontana Village while
>Andy waited at the dam for Gail.
>When I drove back to the dam, Gail was still not there, so Andy and I checked
>out the "Fontana Hilton" shelter. Beautiful, clean, well-constructed,
>two-sided shelter with toilet facilities nearby. The shelter was packed with
>thru hikers waiting out the crummy weather. They all complained about the
>trail conditions and the weather. All looked exhausted. 
>About 3:00, Andy had to leave to have dinner with his father. As he was
>leaving, I saw his car stop up the road beside yet another thru hiker. Andy
>returned and we welcomed Gail to Fontana. Gail had the 1,000 yard stare",
>resulting from shear exhaustion. Gail was late because she had taken a wrong
>turn due to the fog at the Brown Fork Gap Shelter and hiked south instead of
>north. She realized her mistake when she hit Stecoah Gap. So instead of a 13
>mile hike to Fontana, she had hiked approximately 18 miles in bad weather and
>horrible trail conditons (slippery, muddy, icy) to Fontana. Check the trail
>profile for this section, and it doesn't seem like fun. Andy had to leave, so
>I shuttled Gail to Fontana Village for some food. Of course, the restaurant
>was closed, so she had to make-do at the store. The store was not stocked
>very well, so cashews, tricuits, and grape drink had to do. Other thru hikers
>millling about the store were complaining loudly about the lack of supplies
>offered. Not impressed with the place. 
>Finally hit the trail at about 3:30 in cold rain and temps in the low 40's
>and started the reportedly arduous climb up Shuckstack Mountain. It wasn't as
>bad as I thought as the trail was graded and switchbacks always came at the
>right time. The map shows about a 3300 elevation gain  in about 5.2 miles. As
>we gained altitude, the rain changed to snow and it became much colder. The
>trail was very slippery from mud. Seemed slicker than ice. Both of us were
>tired when we arrived at Birch Spring Gap Shelter at about 5:30. I had driven
>all night from St. Louis and had about 3 hours sleep previously. The shelter
>was full to the gills with thru hikers.(12 people in shelter) Joe had saved
>two spaces for us on the bottom bunks!  Mass confusion in the shelter with
>food bags and packs hanging everywhere, stoves, pots, and other miscellaneous
>gear strewn about the floor, and wet clothing everywhere. You would think
>that the aforementioned conditions coupled with tired hikers would lead to
>anarchy and social breakdown, but everyone was very considerate and
>especially friendly. Hikers are a great group! Joe had arrrived some  time
>before us and was happily ensconsed in his normal bottom bunk, corner. He had
>waited to eat dinner until we arrived. The spring was right outside the
>shelter, so I filtered a gallon of water quickly and prepared a dinner of
>Ramen noodles and hot chocolate. I should have eaten more, but wasn't hungry.
>Gail hit the sack right after dinner as she was totally exhausted after a 23+
>mile day. I sat up and talked to Joe and the other thru hikers for awhile
>before hitting the sack at about 8:30. The temperature really dropped and the
>snow increased, so I drew my mummy bag all the way closed until only my nose
>was sticking out! Stayed warm all night. 
>Tuesday - 4/9/96
>Awoke to 20 degree temperatures and snow on the ground. Everyone stayed in
>their bags late because it was so cold. Mass confusion reigned again in the
>shelter as everyone tried to fix and eat breakfast, and pack. The top bunkers
>couldn't do anything until the bottom bunkers finished. This is crazy! Had
>granola bars and coffee for breakfast because it just was too much of a
>hassle to fix anything more elaborate. (had planned on eating dehydrated eggs
>and dehydrated fried potatoes) We all got a very late start (10:00 am)
>because nobody wanted to get up. The trail to Spence Field was rough. There
>was about 6 inches of snow on the ground and the trail alternated between
>snow, ice, and mud. Couldn't get into a good pace. Many ups and downs on the
>way, but it seemed mostly like ups! I wore MTS long johns, fleece pullover,
>and goretex jacket. Needed all of this for downhills and stops, but way too
>hot for uphills. As a result, I overheated and became dehydrated after going
>thru all of my water. The wind was blowing strongly and it kept getting
>colder. Stopped at Mollies Ridge Shelter for lunch. Joe and the other thru
>hikers were there also eating. Had hot chocolate and peanut butter on bagels.
>Really tasted good and restored my energy. More climbing from Mollies Ridge.
>Stopped at Russell Field Shelter for a break. Met an interesting thru hiker
>there with the trail name of Muskrat. She looked to be in her 50's or 60's.
>She said she had started the AT at Springer in February and only hikes a few
>miles each day. She endured the winter storms in Ga. and NC and really had a
>rough time. She said she got completely soaked in one of the storms and got
>pretty cold. She holed up in her tent during the weather trying to dry out
>her clothes. Apparently, some hikers reported her conditon to rangers and
>they came in to rescue her. She nicely told them to get lost and remained in
>the tent. She finally got her clothes dried and remained on the trail. Sort
>of reminded me of a Grandma Gatewood story. Muskrat is very determined to
>make it to Katahdin! She will make it.
>My left knee, which was operated on in Oct., started to really bother me at
>Russell Field. I could tell it was swelling as my range of motion declined. I
>felt like Chester in "Gunsmoke". I had prepared for this eventuality by
>getting ibuprofen in my system, wearing ace bandages on both knees, and using
>Leki trekking poles. I think all of these helped, but the slippery trail
>conditons really aggravated the knee. Some of the thru hikers had a nice warm
>fire started at Russell Field and I thought seriously about staying, but had
>to keep on schedule, so I limped the 2.5 miles to Spence Field hollering "Mr
>Dillon, Mr. Dillon" the entire way. I didn't think 2.5 miles would be bad,
>but the climb up Little Bald and Mt. Squires from McCampbell Gap proved my
>undoing. It was only about a 600 ft. elevation gain, but the trail conditons
>of mud and ice made it seem like a 2,000 ft. gain. I became hot and
>dehydrated again on the climb, but didn't want to peel off a layer as it was
>so cold. The wind was blowing hard, so the windchill factor was probably in
>the single digits. I don't believe the temp got over 20 all day. 
>Finally arrived at the Spence Field Shelter at 5:30. Close to an 11 mile day.
>Seemed like 20! All of the same thru hikers were there (they aren't hiking
>anymore mileage than I am) and they all confirmed they had had a tough day.
>Joe had saved us two spaces, but they were on the top tier. Oh, no! All I
>wanted to do was get in my bag and rest my knee, and dry out my clothes. My
>left knee was totally locked up by this time, so it took me several attempts
>to get into the bunk. I fell several times trying to get up there, further
>injuring my knee. I was finally successful, but when the cold air hit my
>legs, they both went into charlie horses. (I had taken my outer layer off
>before getting into my bag)
> Aaaggh! I think the dehydration caused these cramps. I layed in the bag for
>about a half and hour, drank copious amounts of water, and chowed down on
>ibupfrofen until I felt better. Had hot chocolate and fresh vegetable stew
>courtesy of Gail. Very good. The shelter was an absolute zoo again. (12
>people) Nobody wanted to go outside because it was too cold. I kept banging
>into hanging packs and food bags. I must of said excuse me to bags and packs
>10 times, thinking they were other people! Everyone just laughed. Stayed by
>the fire until all my clothes were dry, talking to the thru hikers and a
>fellow who had brought a mule up to the shelter. He hikes with the mule as
>his knees and back are in pretty bad shape. Sounds like a good idea to me.
>Knee continued to bother me, so I dug out the prescription hydrocodone that I
>had left for post operation pain. They didn't even put a dent in the
>throbbing. Slept fitfully all night and really worried about making Silers
>Bald Shelter (12 miles) on Wednesday.
>Wednesday - 4/10/96
>Awoke at 7:00 am. Had some hot chocolate, a bagel and granola bars for
>breakfast in bed. Major ordeal getting down from the top bunk. When I hit the
>ground, I discovered I couldn't stand up without hanging on to something. No
>way I could hike 12 miles today! It was still cold (18 degrees in the
>shelter). Told Joe and Gail that I would have to discontinue my hike. Checked
>out the map and decided to hike down the Bote Mountain Trail to Lead Cove
>Trail to Laurel Creek Road. Hitchhike to Gatlinburg from there. Gail and Joe
>left between 8:00 and 8:30 with Joe going to Silers Bald Shelter and Gail
>hiking to Clingman's Dome. Gave the Tag Team Flag to Gail. The wet, mud, and
>cold were getting to her and she wanted to rest and resupply in G-Burg for a
>couple of days. I stayed at the shelter with a couple of thru hikers and the
>guy with the mule until 10:00. Took a couple more hydrocodone pills and
>wanted to give them time to get into my system. The Bote Mtn. Trail was very
>icy at first, but after about 3,000 ft. snow disappeared and the trail was
>easy downhill. Birds were singing, a few wild flowers were blooming,
>temperatures rose to the 50's and all was right with the world, except my
>darn knee. I really shuffled rather than hiked, using my trekking poles as
>crutches. Lead Cove Trail was also delightful. I think a bear was right ahead
>of me as I could see his tracks and evidence of him digging for grubs along
>the trail. Never did see him though. Took me 4 hours to hike 5 downhill
>miles! Slowest hike I've ever done. Met a family on the trail out for a day
>hike. The father was a sports medicine/rehab physician. He told me that it
>takes about a year for arthroscopic surgery to completely heal, so I had
>probably aggravated it by hiking on it too soon in the slippery conditons. He
>told me to get off it immediately. They agreed to take me to G-Burg when they
>finished their hike. I tried to hitch a ride at the trail head as I didn't
>want to wait until them to finish. The only guy who stopped sort of unnerved
>me. He had this junky heap which was spewing black smoke. He didn't have any
>teeth and was wearing a cowboy hat and a black t-shirt with Mega-Death on it.
>He had tatoos all over his arms and long, scraggly hair. To top it off, he
>had a can of Budweiser between his legs as well as empties strewn about his
>car. I told him no thanks, but he kept on insisting. The family I met on the
>trail arrived just at the right time and told me to get in their car. I did!
>Nice ride to G-Burg with family. Dr. and I discussed bicycles all the way in.
>He is a riding fanatic too. Gave some of my freeze dried food to his two
>sons. They can't wait to try backpacking. 
>Checked into Alto Motel in G-Burg and got cleaned up. Took more ibuprofen at
>suggestion from Dr. Ordered pizza when Gail showed up. She had hiked all the
>way to Clingman's Dome (15 miles) and also got a ride with a family into
>town. She helped me finish my pizza and then went to check into the Willows
>Motel, a thru hiker's haven which is very inexpensive. The flag has finally
>made it! Finally, after 3 attempts on this section, the Tag Team Hike is
>Joe called me late on Thursday from home and said he had completed the
>section. He said the trail to Siler's was really rough. He was on all fours
>in many places because of the slippery mud. He didn't make Silers until late
>at night after 11-12 hours of hiking. Said it was one of the roughest hikes
>he'd done. Joe said he reached Clingman's on Thursday about 2:00. Sorry I
>wasn't there to help him celebrate, but I didn't have a car to get up there.
>I was finally able to get my car at Fontana on Friday when my brother came
>into town.