I try to backpack a section of the AT twice a year. This trip the last week of August had to be shorter than normal (4 days). I picked up a hiking partner enroute, we started at the Nantahala Outdoor center and traveled to Fontana Dam. The first section going north is one of the toughest climbs in the area. Ascended from 1800 ft to 5000 ft summit at Cheoa Bald with overnight stop at Sassafras gap shelter. Weather was perfect 75 day and 58 at night. Found metal ammo box at peak with notebook for notes from every traveler. No bear problems and saw some large deer. Hammock and rain fly worked perfect as well as alcohol stove. Meal prep was minimal effort and quick. Found all water sources almost dried up and had to put a coffee cup in the small stream and wait for it to fill up before using water filter. Time consuming but also time to rest. We were sleeping 10 and 11 hours every night. (great for recharge). The climb down to Steoah Gap was a treacherous rocky trail at times with a lot of fallen trees blocking the only path along ridge switchbacks. The next section to Brown Fork Gap was very steep but short, then mostly downhill or gradual to Fontana Dam. I used Jeff and Nancy from The Hike Inn for shuttle back and as usual they are wonderful. I am posting a couple of pics. The pic of me is dirty and tired but triumphant at 5000 ft mark.