Day 16 - Benton MacKaye Trail

We had a pretty sleepless night at campsite 81 due to it being pretty chilly.  For late May, the temperatures were easily in the 40s!  We packed up and headed out of camp at about 9:30 for a long, but easier day in the Smokies.  About 3 miles in we saw our first hikers of the day headed the other direction and reached campsite 77 soon after.  After a quick break for a snack, we began walking old roadbed for the next few hours.  It is easy to daydream about how this area must have looked before everyone got kicked out for the building of Fontana Dam back in the early 1940s.  We passed several unlabeled side trails and that usually indicates a cemetery on this side of the lake.  Walking through this area now it is hard to imagine that 70 years ago thousands of people lived here.

 One of many cascades along the trail today

One of many cascades along the trail today

 

We took a long lunch at campsite 76 right near a boat launch.  We then followed the lake for a bit before climbing up and away since the road we had been walking now disappeared straight into the lake!  We reached our next camp in less than an hour and met the roadbed yet again for a few easy graded miles.  An hour after leaving Chambers Creek we ran into a group of about 10 young guys anxious to get to campsite 98.  When I told them we left it an hour ago they all looked like I had punched them in the stomach!  We told them we had walked about 14 miles already today and they looked shocked. 

 A canoe on Fontana Lake

A canoe on Fontana Lake

We had a series of PUD's for the next 4 miles- pointless ups and downs.  We basically walked along a ridge, swung around one side of the hill, and crossed to another.  We finally came down into  Forney Creek at about 5:30 to our campsite at camp 74.  We set up a bit away from everyone else since they were cooking food and smores on a grill. Bears tend to like that sort of thing!  We have a big day tomorrow also, and a wet one!  We are walking three trails tomorrow, all of them with the name "Creek" in the title!  We are hoping for a warmer night and better sleep tonight.

 More cascades leading down into the lake

More cascades leading down into the lake