Fontana…his view and mine

When I asked a boyfriend once to list great moments we’d had…our lists were a little different. It was cool to relive some moments because of that chat. At the top of both lists was a paddle and three-night camp at Fontana Lake, on the south edge of the Smokies.

He would have his technical review of gear used, items to reduce weight and the must-have items for such an adventure. I’m thankful he knows all that stuff. I wouldn’t last on a primitive backcountry site for six hours alone. But together, what an adventure it was and made for some interesting perspective differences too.

Before we even left his view had tinges of anxiety on what an unknown it would be, taking a lady who outdoors but not in a hard-core primitive way into such a remote place. I had my own anxieties but had put my trust fully in him in the operational aspect and happily proceeded just being glad to not know what time it was for three full days. My only fear was how much togetherness there would be. Come on somebody… three overnights in the backcountry with a man you’ve been dating for four months is a lot of freaking togetherness.

After some planning, spreadsheeting the grocery list and packing… cause along with being a time nazi, I’m THAT girl ~ we were packed and ready. We slayed “the dragon” on the way. If you don’t know that famous road, it is 318 turns in 11 miles, a haven for sports car and motorcycle enthusiasts around the country. A large SUV with two yaks strapped on top is not the sleekest, sexiest or smoothest way to go through it.


But had some photos to prove it was done.

The drive along Cheoah lake offered some magnificent views which were indicative of even more beauty to come. Over four hours from Nashville, we arrived at a tiny, almost non-existent boat dock called Prince. Dirt, gravel boat launch and all. Kayaks packed and repacked for weight balance and then a short stint in the car to let some rain pass, and we were on the water.

When it started to rain, my view had been that it didn’t matter much. Our gear was packed in dry areas of our kayaks, what was exposed was weatherproof and the clothes we were wearing were summertime duds. Who cares?! Later I found that his first thought had been filled with worry that “she’d get wet and start to complain”.

The paddle in was just over two hours and luckily uneventful on a gray day. Coming out of the cove was like a float-house shopping extravaganza. Having grown up spending weekends on one and craving to buy a fishing shack on water now, a bunch of ‘what-ifs’ zipped through my mind. The little floating structures on Fontana ranged from what looked like third world country shanties to Ritz Carlton’s on water.

Two hours of steady paddling later, we were unloading gear from the yaks and carrying gear up a muddy, slippery bank. If you ever consider backcountry site 78 on Fontana, don’t do it during low water times. Even in the midst of summer, the haul from boat to higher ground can be some work. My perspective was to get this party started and his was ‘dang, that girl is not girly’.

We finally got set up and start looking around at the beauty. His views are taking in where trees with thin pliable branches are for tourniquet usage or something Mcgyver style. My views contained slight pride in my heart that I’d helped set up a great campsite. But when my brain realized how far we were from any civilization, I immediately thought “we are screwed if something happens to him because I will die of panic and fright”. Oh well, quick way to go, I guess.

The storm on the first night could have really tested patience. He was outside furiously fixing the tarp while I was just moving things out of the line of the tent leaks. Our views of that were similar…keep as much as you can dry and laugh about it later. And on a gear note: a fifteen-year-old tent really isn’t the best choice to camp in. But since he’s a hammock guy, I brought the only option we had to sleep next to each other. Needless to say, we slept in hammocks the second night and I will own a Dutch chameleon of my own at some point!

One of the funniest moments where our views differed totally was a trip to the ‘restroom’. Side note: if you ever stay on site 78 and find a hollowed tree stump with 2 short sections of 2″ x 6″ across the top… you’re welcome. It made the perfect restroom, especially for a girl with fears of pooping in the woods who had also started the day before this adventure.

It was, well, it was really dark and had been for hours (time unknown) and I quietly unzipped the tent and crept out en route to the stump. Just about four seconds later, I found a light shining from behind me toward the tree stump and spun around and said “why are you following me?”. My view was clearly… give me a damn minute alone, but his view was that he was protecting me from critter life in the middle of the night. I’m happy to report we never saw signs of any vicious critters. There was one snake spotted and he was wise enough to not mention it until days after we’d returned!

Although there was no sign of bears, we still used the hanging cables the site provided. And while it was a pretty heavy haul, the Yeti roadie cooler made for some mighty fine eating. It kept steaks, bacon, chicken, and hamburger all perfectly chilled until it was their turn to grill.

Another funny view moment was that ‘boo’ would love to relay there’s great fishing there…but nope. So he took the view of “ah, fishing is relaxing”. He thought he’d catch a good fish for dinner one evening. He’s all “grrr, caveman, catch fish, feed my woman.” My thoughts after having thrown bait in the water exactly three times came out something like “there are no fish on Fontana lake” with “a fake annoyance in my tone. Turns out we both made the same mistake before we went. We bought Tennessee fishing license, for an adventure in North Carolina.

On the second day in a differing view was that he believes a water bladder that’s been hanging from a tree, in the sun is a refreshing shower. Being Ms. Sweaty Sweaterson, my view is that I would soap up some areas and jump in the lake. Why even ‘shower’ if there’s no climate-controlled bathhouse and no hair dryer? I’m not going for ‘getting ready’, my goal is to not smell myself too badly.

His recollection of his very favorite ‘view’ was of me standing in sleep shorts and a light pink hoodie, head back, standing like a dumb blonde wondering how I would get the heavy cooler down from the bear cables. It had my kombucha in it and I was determined! I heard numerous times what a great view that was. I couldn’t see it, nor imagine it but felt grateful for the confidence boost of that being a moment he talked about. It made me feel cute and sexy.

It was also a contributing factor to being able to keep my cool during the break-up. While he was a stupid, stupid, stupid man and considered not telling me his divorce wasn’t final a ‘mistake’, I viewed it as completely reprehensible. But those tiny moments of his genuine appreciation for me as a great woman kept me from completely losing my shit and allowed me to handle that breakup with a touch more grace. Just a touch!

I will possibly regret some things I looked past and perhaps forget every single other moment we’d listed as being great. But it’s several months now since the break-up and long since Fontana, but I still appreciate that I spent some moments documenting what an amazing experience that was. Butterfly Island (what I nicknamed the site) will always have a little space in my heart.

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