Mile 177.3, Elevation 4,586 feet
With the weather cleared, I hiked out of Fontana and entered the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Before entering the park, I had to pull my permit from the backpack and fill in a few fields. The permit was then inserted into a box at the trail head and I kept the receipt.
I had to walk across Fontana Dam to get to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park trail head
The left most picture is the southern entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I found a survey plate on the trail (middle picture). Right most picture is me at "Rocky Top."
The beginning of the hike was almost straight up for several miles. Eventually I hiked 12 miles to the Mollies Ridge Shelter. The sprained ankle or whatever it is, was okay, and I made my destination with no problems.
To my surprise there was a ranger there checking permits. After telling him I had one (he didn't ask to see it), I found a spot in the shelter and laid out my sleeping bag. The shelter was quite the departure from what I have seen so far on the trail. It had two levels, a fireplace, construction was stone, and there was a tarp over the front of the shelter. I'm not sure if the tarp was to keep us warm or discourage bears from entering the shelter. Whatever the case, I liked the tarp. The shelter was full and I was glad to get a spot.
In the "Smokies" you are not permitted to tent if there is room in a shelter. Section hikers or those hikers just out for a few days must make reservations for whatever shelter they intend to spend the night. Most of the "Smokey" shelters will hold 12 or more hikers. Four spots are reserved for thru hikers (that's me even though I'm only going several hundred miles) and the rest of the spots are reserved for those hikers out for a few days. Those casual hikers don't often show up for their reservations, so the thru hikers get to take their spots. Unfortunately, if a hiker with a reservation shows up regardless of the time, the last-in thru hiker must vacate a spot and find a place to pitch a tent. This is true even if a hiker with a reservation comes into the shelter in the middle of the night. Fortunately, that did not happen tonight.
So, I got a good night sleep for my first night in the "Smokies" even though it was a cold night up that high.