The visitor center was kinda a letdown and the gift store was closed! (Probably a good thing haha) there was a pretty fancy entry to the bathroom. I find I rather go to the bathroom out in the woods than most public restrooms. The Fontana Dam reminded me of when we went to the Hoover Dam, a lot less touristy of course but it was a nice experience. When entering the Smokies it was Lynn, Korey, G-Man, and Scout. The day was hot. Really hot. It was all uphill, I felt the sweat pouring down my back. Today was the first day I felt stuck, remote in the woods. I went through my water quickly, and hiked a lot of the day alone. I stopped to get water and Korey and G-Man caught up and we talked with two other guys for a bit and then I trekked on to the fire tower. It was off the trail but I am glad I went up, the views were great but the tower was sketchy. I walked the stairs to the top with my pack and was disappointed when the top was enclosed and kinda like a tree fort. There was word of a mother bear and three cubs up around the tower but luckily we didn't cross paths. I ate lunch at the tower and no one from the group came up so I decided to hike back down to the trail. My rash got worse and it seemed like it was on the left calve a little as well...this worried me. Not knowing what it is and all. I switched between my sneakers and boots to give different parts of my feet a rest. To add on top of the rash, I got sun burnt on the back of my left calve...awesome! I feel like I am falling apart-when one thing heals or feels better a new arrives. The bugs are horrible, tiny little black things that bite, little suckers bit me several times. I wanted to get to the shelter so bad, I could feel my impatient self surfacing. Lynn, G-Man and I stopped for water and I was so fed up with my Camelbak not fitting since it was now full, I hiked with the little plastic piece constantly on my neck and it got old fast. I drank enough to ask Lynn to try and stuff it in so I didn't take my knife to it. The last mile and half took forever as usual and we heard thunder in the distance. Finally at the last leg to the shelter it was an uphill battle so I put in my earphones and Eminem-Cinderella Man was on. Couldn't have asked for a better song, Lynn let me pass, and then G-Man did as well. I was in an uphill furry, I felt the adrenaline rush and pushed on. I huffed up the hill and once the song ended, I played it again. I heavily breathed through my nose and out my mouth and before I knew it I reached the top of the hill and the shelter. Great thing about the Smokies: Shelters are right on the trail. As soon as I got there I asked if anyone happened to have any anti itch cream for a rash-Hopeful (a trail maintainer) opened up the shelter lock box and pulled out some cream, he said he would replenish that I could hold onto it, so grateful! Thank you!!! It started raining and the wind picked up-be nice to me, PLEASE!