AT Segment 4 Hikes (North Carolina)
Appalachian Trail Segment 4

AT Hike Recap: mileage by day was
7.6 miles Mooney Gap up Albert Mtn to Rock Gap where AT closed do to forest fires.
9.9 miles Fontana Dam south to Cody gap - stealth camped
6.9 miles Sassafras shelter to Nantahala Outdoor Center  (NOC)
Total 36.3 AT miles

DAY 1 - Mooney Gap up Albert Mtn. to Rock gap  (7.6 miles) - northbound

Started where Stacey and I left off ending our segment 3 hike at Mooney Gap at mile 96.4 from the beginning of the AT on Springer MT Ga. Mooney Gap heading north goes steeply up to Albert Mtn (98.0) where there is a fire tower giving an even better vantage point. It was about 1.5 miles with one third a mile very difficult to climb. The views were awesome, even though it was a little smoky/cloudy.  We had intended to stay at Rock Gap Shelter (103.9) but ran into a south bound hiker that said he had just come thru some forest fire areas barely able to breathe using his bandana covering his mouth and nose, and at times could not see the trail for the smoke.  He said the AT was closed just beyond where we were going.  So we went past Rock Gap shelter to Rock Gap (just another .1) where it meets a road and the trail had big red letters posted indicating the trail was closed because of fire. It was getting close to the end of day, so we walked another 1 mile plus down the blacktop to Standing Indian Campground and rented a tent spot for $16, and got several names of shuttle services. We arranged for David Watters to pick us up in the morning to take us to Fontana Dam so we could hike south to the NOC.  That was about 28 miles, so fit within our 3 days remaining to hike.  We set up our hammocks in a tent spot beneath a hill with trees, met a couple of campers, one with a fifth-wheel (no hookups) and sat by their fire and enjoyed the company.

Albert Mountain (5,250 ft) views from the top as well as from atop the fire tower

1) Mooney gap start, 2) Standing Indian Campground camp site the first night, 3) Stacey getting water at one of the few flowng springs we found - water turned out to be scarce

Day 2 - Fontana Dam shelter to Cody Gap (9.9 miles) - now hiking southbound

We woke up at standing Indian campground and got a late start because David Watters had difficulty finding roads that were not closed because of the fires. We had arranged for him to take us north of the fires.  We decided to skip the fire section all together so we went to Fontana Dam shelter (AT mile163.7) to hike south.  The start was a very difficult climb of over 3400 feet up and we hiked until 6:30 p.m. stopping at Cody gap (mm 153.8) for the night. 10.1 total AT miles. We were alone at Cody gap in the middle of the mountains, set up our hammocks and made dinner. I had chorizo with my ramen noodles and it tasted fantastic. We are going to have to hike a lot of miles tomorrow (Saturday) because we want to get to the NOC by Sunday around noon.

    1) View of Fontana lake from the AT as it climbs heading south, 2) Stacey and I with shuttle driver David Watters who saved our hike by taking us north of the fires, 3) Stacey coming down the leaf-covered trail

1) Stopped at this shelter but no significant water was available, 2) Cody Gap where we spent night 2, 3) Stacey resting at Cody gap before we setup our hammocks

1) We setup out hammocks near the blue trail marker - I went down that trail a long ways but no water was to be found, 2) New hammock setup by overlapping canopies

Day 3 - Cody gap to Sassafras shelter (11.9 miles)

Left Cody gap heading south around 8:45 a.m. We needed to resupply water. Turns out almost all the water supply places were dry. Got to Stecoah Gap (148.6) and a couple in a pickup truck took us into Robbinsville. It was 6 miles away and we both gorged on foot-long Subway sandwiches and a cookie, refilled our water and then hitch hiked back to the trail, probably costing us an hour and a half in total. It took about 40 minutes before anyone would pick us up. Ended up hiking 11.9 miles to get to Sassafras shelter (mm 141.9). We only had 7 miles to go tomorrow to get to the NOC, our final destination. We hiked over Cheoah Bald (mm 143.1) which was the tallest mountain on this day at 5,062 feet and it offered a spectacular view. We took a chance to find water by going down another trail that was supposed to have a spring, but it turned out to be very dry and we just wasted our legs. We hiked another 1.2 miles to Sassafras shelter (141.9) and ended up doing a little night hiking using our head lamps.  As we got close to the shelter, Stacey scared me a lot by a loud yell grabbing me from behind as something big was coming up the mountain to the trail right beside us. It turned out to be a bear hunting dog and it had an Id collar as well as a tracking collar.  It followed us to the shelter where we fed it some, and it spent the night with us.  I called the owner from the phone number on the collar and he asked us to let it follow us out to the NOC the next day if it would.  The dog was very good natured, but it was quite the nuisance as it appeared very hungry. We just ate energy bars and trail mix because we didn't have enough water to drink AND cook food requiring water.  I gave the dog a package of Ramen noodles, which it devoured.  We decided to just sleep in the loft of the shelter so we wouldn't have to setup our hammocks and canopies, and we could stay out of reach of the aggravating dog.  As we had heard often, there were mice that ran around all night and even scurrying past our heads during the night.  The dog made quite a bit of noise going in and out of the shelter's wooden floor clanking all night as well. He even went off for a while howling after something, possibly a bear which are known to frequent many shelters.  We did tie our food bags up high from a tree limb.  There was one other person in the shelter named Tim who we enjoyed some hiking stories and conversation with.  He was heading north to Fontana Dam.

1) The terrain was often very rocky, 2) Hogback gap with tree growing over the sign, 3) Stacey and I coming out of a Green Tunnel, which is another name the AT is called in general

This pano was from the top of Cheoah Bald (5,062 feet high), which provided a spectacular view. The smoke to the left was from fires farther sounth of the NOC that caused us to change our hike plans after day 1.

Day 4 - Sassafras shelter to Nantahala Outdoor Centeer (NOC) (6.9 miles)

We left Sassafras shelter by 8 a.m. but it had changed to DLST or would have been 9 a.m. Because of lack of water we just had energy bars again for breakfast before heading out. On the way we had two thru-hikers that passed us, one had a trail name of No Worries and the other was Bent (as in not broken). No Worries took the dog with him and I called the owner who was waiting at the next road gap where he picked the dog up. The trail was closed from the NOC going south so we ended up giving those two a ride to Franklin where they would stay and resupply until they figured out how they would finish their trek. At one point on the trail we found a baggie with a bunch of chocolate pop tarts and Stacey and I had a couple each. We left a bunch. Later at a restaurant at the NOC we sat down with Bent and "No Worries" who said he found them and ate them all.  We enjoyed talking with the two SoBo thru hikers who was proving how much a thru hiker could eat, and No Worries asked if we could take them to Franklin. I called Cindy (owner of the cabins where we left the car) and she drove down to the NOC and picked Stacey up.  Cindy was worried some about her cabins as the fires were getting closer and lots of soot was all over everything. She was hosing down a lot of her property.  We enjoyed the ride to Franklin and the hiking discussion with the two SoBo's who had finished over 2,000 miles.  We dropped them off at a super market and headed home to Orlando.

SoBo thru hiker No Worries stops for a minute in front of Stacey and takes the bear hunting dog for us to the next roadway to get to its owner.

1) Some beautiful rock formations, 2) the bridge crossing the river to the NOC, and 3) SoBo thru hikers No Worries and Bent (not broken) going for dessert after a huge lunch

The following Google Earth image shows the section in red we had to skip because of fires. We started northbound at Mooney Gap parking and had to quit a Rock Gap. We spent the night at Standing Indian campground about 1.3 miles down the blacktop national forest road and then shuttled the next day to Fontana Dam to hike southbound to the NOC. Note that the red AT path ended up having several forest fires. A few days after we arrived home in Orlando Stacey recieved the picture of the hillside burning across from the NOC, both daunting and beautiful.

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