We had everything packed in the truck the night before so we were able to get up early, grab a quick breakfast, and be off for the trail by 7:00. Everything went smoothly and I was able to begin hiking by about 7:45. The morning was very cold and at the elevations everything was in the clouds and damp and dripping. But the forecast today was nothing but sun.

From Indian Grave Gap it’s a slow steady climb up to Beauty Spot. The air was very cold but I was only wearing a short sleeve t-shirt. Within the first hour I had to put my gloves on to keep my hands warm. The vegetation up to beauty spot wasn’t too wet but my feet did get a little bit damp.

By the time I got to the top of Beauty Spot I could tell that the sun was out but the mountain was still in the clouds. After only 5 minutes walking across the meadow my feet were totally wet. I did manage to get a little bit of a view towards Erwin but in most directions it was totally clouded.

The new pack was working out well. It felt very heavy going up the climbs to Beauty Spot and the pack is much stiffer than my other packs but it fit comfortably and has lots of adjustments. Within the first hour I had it pretty much dialed it the way I wanted it. I would loose the shoulder straps a little bit on long up hills to move the pack away from my back to help with ventilation and on the level and down hills I would cinch it a little tighter to bring it a little closer to my body.

I passed three shelters today but I only stopped at the second one to eat lunch. Another thing I passed today was hikers. I saw more hikers today than I think I’ve seen any day on the trail except maybe the very first one at Springer Mountain. I could tell that I hit a pocket of south bounders. I only talked to a few of them and two that I talked to were finishing a flip flop back to Franklin when they got forced off the trail back in March. I imagine this year the south bounders are twice as numerous as normal years just because of COVID shutting the trail down in March.

I also had another run in with a dog that was not leashed. It was a German Shepherd that ran right up towards me barking the entire time and with its hair standing up. The owner was trying to get it under control but most dogs don’t listen to their owners that well. It had a service dog vest on but this was no service dog unless it was a drug dog. The place where this dog was was the exact place I’d identified on the map as a good place to camp for the evening but after the encounter I had no choice but to move on a little further.

Luckily less than half a mile away it was another pretty good spot just off the trail that had good trees for hammocking but it’s on a small saddle that’s a little bit windier than I would like for tonight. Nevertheless here I am camped. I cooked a big pot of Pad Thai and doctored it up with some extra tomato powder and Sriracha sauce. It was pretty good and hit the spot.  I was also glad to get rid of one of the heavier items in my food bag.

I am just under 100 mi from Damascus so I should be able to make it by Monday. Tomorrow I have a big climb and there are a few balds to cross so I’m glad the forecast is for sunshine. Maybe I will finally get some good views tomorrow.