The Hobbit Chapter 11
After they get their provisions, the dwarves are left by the lake men, who are too afraid of a dragon they have never seen, to stay on the far side of the lake. The night is cold; autumn has begun. Their spirits, high from a week as heroes, fall pitifully. The next day is hard because there are no paths and they must pick their own way towards the mountain. They no longer sing because their journey looks like it is going to have an abrupt end, sooner rather than later. The closer they get to the mountain, the more desolate the landscape becomes. They set a camp in the foothills. still seeing no trace of the dragon. Thorin sends a search party to look at the front gate of the mountain. The front gate is a lower face of the mountain from which a stream flows, passing all the way to the Long Lake. Bilbo goes with the search party, and near a bend in the river, they come upon the ruins of the city Dale. The sneak up to the side of the mountain and look at the gate. The gate is actually an enormous opening. Smoke trails out from its dark depths. Balin does not think this definitely means the dragon is still around, but he is not going to take any chances. The party makes its way back. Everyone is weary as they move their camp closer to the mountain. Bilbo frequently looks at the map and longs for his home.
They spend the next few days searching for the secret passage on the slopes of the western side of the mountain. After a few days, they become very discouraged. Finally, Kili, Fili, and Bilbo happen upon it. Near a standing stone, Bilbo discovers a path that leads to a hidden ledge. Once they get to the ledge, they see that the opening of the tunnel was hidden by the outcropping. There is a flat smooth door in the tunnel. There is no visible key-hole or handle. When they try to smash it with tools, the metal of their instruments just shatters. Despite the failure, "There was excitement in the camp that night." Chapter 11, pg. 205 Even though they cannot open it, they are not yet discouraged and find renewed energy. The next day, they return to the ledge but nothing will open the door. When they strike it, there is a deep echo that makes them nervous. Bilbo is afraid of sitting on the doorstep of such a mountain. Their spirits sink as they realize that they do not know how to open the door. Bilbo spends several days just staring westward, while the dwarves search all over the mountain for some clue. When the dwarves ask him what he is doing, he says he is sitting and thinking.
One day Thorin announces that it is the last week of autumn. Their food consists almost wholly of a dense bread-like material called cram. Dwalin suggests that Bilbo put on his ring and go in through the front entrance. Bilbo freaks out and becomes very nervous. He does not sleep very well that night. The next day, he sits and watches the sky all day long wishing for Gandalf to appear. He sees a thrush cracking a snail on a stone, and remembers the words read from the map by Elrond. He calls the dwarves to him and they wait for nightfall. A moon opens on the horizon, and the old thrush shrieks as the light beams down. It illuminates a keyhole on the ground. Bilbo tells Thorin to put his key in the hole. They all push and the door opens. A dark tunnel appears.