Yesterday must have been the opening day for bear hunting season because today was filled with people wearing orange, toting around dogs, and carrying guns.
I woke up nice and early at 6:15 and was able to get ready and on the trail before 7:00. It felt great to get out early and well before the sunrise. Last night was not cold at all and I got a little warm at times so getting ready was pretty easy.
The first hour of hiking was quite a bit of up and down along the ridgeline and I got tired pretty early. I ate and drink a little bit and that gave me a little more energy. I knew water was going to be scarce today so I needed to plan where I would stop to collect it.
After about 2 hours I came across two guys in a camp site with two hunting dogs running around. The dogs were really skinny and one of the guys was feeding them as I got there. I went down to the water source and got some water straight out of the spring that was coming out of a rock. Since I could actually see the water coming out of the ground I didn’t bother treating it.
20 minutes after leaving that campsite the two dogs there came running behind me. They were really friendly and pretty neat dogs. They would come and go for the next hour as I was hiking.
I stopped for lunch at one of the shelters and had the last piece of pizza which was horrible. Note to self: never buy Little Caesars pizza. Cheese, salami, and triscuits fixed the bad pizza.
Shortly after lunch the trail crossed Tennessee 92. The parking lot was full of trucks with dog crates in the back and dozens of hunters running around in orange. I stopped to have another quick snack and make some Gatorade and in the 5 minutes I was sitting there 3 hunters walked up the trail the same direction I was going. I decided it was best if I change from the long sleeve gray shirt I was wearing to the short sleeve orange shirt.
From here the trail ran across several pastures. It was probably over a mile worth and really very pleasant hiking and great scenery. After the pastures ended the trail continued to be very moderate for most of the rest of the day. The climbs now are a moderate grade and don’t slow you down too much which is nice for a change.
I kept running into one of the two hikers I saw in the morning that were feeding the dogs. We crossed paths more than five times during the day. He is also out to hike till the end of October but he only started at the beginning of the month. I am assuming he probably started near Carver’s Gap. He went past the shelter I stopped at tonight so I doubt I will see him again unless I run across him in Damascus.
Since many of the hostels are closed I went ahead and called one of them to reserve a room for tomorrow night. I am only 10 miles from town and I’m pretty sure I can get there before lunch. If I get there early enough I might just drop my pack by the hostel and then run and rent a bike to ride down the Virginia Creeper Trail. That would be a nice change of pace to be able to ride a bike for a while instead of walk.
Today was my first 25-mile day of the trip. I don’t need every day to be 25 mi but I do need many of them to be close to be able to hit my end point goal of getting past the Shenandoah’s. The terrain should be a little bit easier than North Carolina. As long as I get up early I should be able to do the mileage I want to do. My only concern is the days are getting shorter very quickly. But I’ll worry about that on Tuesday as Monday in Damascus is all I’m focused on right now.