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March 16 2023, Stecoah Gap to Fontana Hilton: The moment we turned into Stecoah Gap, we saw tables of food and hikers scattered about. I yelled in excitement, “Is this trail magic??” A woman replied, “Sure is! It’s only for special people. Aren’t you glad you’re a special person?!” They offered us chili cheese dogs, muffins, some freeze dried skittles and had us sign their van with a sharpie. As we were about to leave, we heard Beans shouting from the hilltops so we waited for him to come down. We hugged him and told him to meet us at the Fontana Hilton!
Right before crossing the road to start our climb, a guy spotted us hikers and said to us, “God is protecting you. He made you run into these people to get some energy so you could get over this hill, because you see, there’s this thing called Jacob’s Ladder. You think you have it good up until the last half a mile. From there, it’s a 50% grade incline. Good luck.” Checkmate and I hit that last half mile—so steep our feet were sliding—we tried to grip our treading with failed attempts. He yelled, “FUCK Jacob!”
When we made it down the mountain, Checkmate asked me to walk .1 miles down to the Fontana Marina so he could buy himself an ice cold beer. He even offered to buy me anything I wanted. I looked over that way and was like, “Eh, it looks like a hill.” I loved Checkmate because he so obviously conveyed his emotions through his facial expressions. This time his face read, “Are you FUCKING kidding me?? It’s point fucking one mile down.” I told him I’d wait, but he just decided to trek on with me. I didn’t hear the end of it. There was a climb directly out of the parking lot—I did a little happy dance and shouted, “Woo-hoo! Let’s do this!!” He replied with, “God fucking damnit. I’m so fucking sick of this shit!” I busted out laughing. I remembered my first thru—I was the same way. It took me years to look forward to whatever the trail had to offer me, even if it meant steep climbs for several hours.
We made it to the Fontana Shelter, also known as Fontana Hilton due to it being supplied with hot showers, charging stations and a scenic view of the dam.
I played with a leaf bug. Pink yelled hello to people that cruised by on a boat, but the way his raspy voice carried made it sound like he was screaming for help. The boys got some trail magic beer and vodka seltzer and eventually more people showed up. I felt a sense of overwhelm once more people showed up so I decided to head to bed early.
Wrapped in my sleeping bag on the top story of the shelter, Pink laughed and said I looked like a caterpillar. Beans showed up when I was nearly asleep and Pink asked me to wiggle my feet to mimic a caterpillar that was about to burst out of its cocoon.