Hardly a cloud in the sky, plentiful sunshine, and cool breezes all day long. And the weather wasn’t the only thing that was great today. The terrain was milder than it has been so far in the trip.

I slept pretty well last night in the bunkhouse except for the mattress that I was on had wires poking my body in all sorts of weird places. I had arranged to get a ride to the bakery in town at 8:00 when they opened but I was awake long before then. By 7:30 I was fully packed and ready to go. It was a later start than I would have liked but the bakery was well worth it. I got a bagel sandwich with home fries and then two pastries to take out for the hike.

It turns out that the couple that was running the hostel and shuttling me into town are both from Florida. He is from Tallahassee and she is from Gainesville. What a small world. They both just finished thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail less than a week ago and have only been working at the hostel for 2 days.

I got a quick ride to the trailhead and was off at 9:00. There were three other hikers that got there just before I did and started up the trail just a few minutes before me. For the next hour I could hear them talking on switchbacks either above me or on the next ridge. I didn’t actually pass them until about 5 mi into the hike when they stopped to take a food break. They were eating fresh apples. I ran into them again later and found out they also had carrots and all sorts of heavy vegetables with them. They are heading to Damascus which is about a 75 mile trip for them.

Most of the terrain today was pretty mild including the hike up from highway 19E. There were still all sorts of meadows to get good views from and a few rocky areas where you could see the next ridge. Water was abundant as I probably passed 20 water sources today.

For lunch I had a tuna wrap with potato chips and a Dr Pepper I had packed out from the hostel. The tuna was hot buffalo flavor and I could hardly eat it. I think I’m going to have to stick to the plane tuna packed in oil because the flavors are just so intense that they’re not very pleasing to eat.

There were a lot of hikers on the trail again today. I probably saw more than 20 people. When I stopped at the last shelter to get water before moving on to find a campsite I ran across a hiker I had met two days ago and also stayed at the hostel with last night. He is only going 12 miles to meet another person at a hostel so I will probably move ahead of him and never see him again. I haven’t seen the same hiker more than one or two days this whole trip which is a little unusual.

The weather was so cool I never had to stop to get water all day until the very end at 6:15. I filled up with 2 liters at the last shelter so I would have plenty of water to make camp. I think I only carried 1 liter plus the Dr Pepper out from the hostel.

I think I made roughly 20 miles for the day which is pretty good considering I started 2 hours later than normal. The easier terrain lets me hike a little faster. I haven’t checked the maps but I should be about 55 miles from Damascus. I think I should have enough food so I doubt I will try to stop off in Hampton, Tennessee. I think there is a gas station near where the trail crosses the highway at Lake Watauga so if I do need a few more walking snacks I should be able to top off there without going all the way into town.

I am camped pretty high on a mountain which is not ideal for cold weather but it was a great place to stop. I had an incredible red sunset that would have been nice had there been fewer trees to get a better view of it. I set the camera to take a time lapse video while I set up camp and cooked dinner. I am sleeping in one more layer than normal because I’m expecting it to get pretty cold tonight. But at least the wind is not nearly as strong as it was two nights ago. I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep so I can get up early and knock out some miles tomorrow.