That first day out of town was really foggy and was rainy for a while, but the real rain didn't last long at all. I actually really like the woods in wet weather. Everything just has a very different aspect to it, everything looks kind of mysterious in low light with mist rolling through it. Its easier to imagine that I am really a long way from civilizatioon. Anyway, it was a nice walk that first day, and that night I stayed at the rather damaged Swamp Creek Shelter (a tree had fallen on it at some point, so only about half the shelter was usable.
I rose the next morning feeling pretty good after a surprisingly refreshing nights sleep and got moving, thinking maybe I would actually see someone that day. Obviously, that didn't happen. I had to do a stint of road walking that morning for about 1.5 miles because there was a bridge out on the trail. It was a weird change but anything different like that can be kind of cool. It was a new way of appreciating the area, and the road did at least follow the river very closely and it was quite pretty. I ate lunch at Wind Rock that day, and spoke with a couple of the few people I saw those first couple of days. There was a very panoramic view from up there, and it was a very nice day so I actually had a rather hard time pulling myself away to start hiking again. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, although there were some really pretty woods that were appropriatly sun-dappled in the afternoon light, and as I recall there was a nice breeze blowing. It was just a very pleasant walk. Also, there was a really nice view from Kelly's Knob late in the day. I would have taken a picture, but I was facing straight into the sun. I was alone that night at Laurel Creek Shelter and I built a big fire (maybe too big, though nothing bad happened). Unfortunately, the fire was too far from the shelter to keep me warm. It got wicked cold that night for some reason. Even with a liner in my bag I was still kind of chilly, I was wishing I hadn't traded out my 25 degree bag for my 40 degree. It was also the first night since probably the smokies that I slept in my hat. It was a really weird cold snap.
I didn't get going the next morning until after ten, something I haven't done since very early on. Maybe it was because I hadn't slept all that well, but I just felt really sluggish all that morning. As a result the fairly steep climb up the only mountain that morning, was actually kind of brutal. Fortunately, I was only going twelve miles that day. I discovered at lunch that day that I was out of water treatment ( I knew I had been low, but thought I had at least enough for a couple more liters). This would normally not have been a problem as I would just have begged off of someone else, but as I was by myself. I got rather thirsty that afternoon. As a result I spent the first few hours in camp that evening boiling water on a wood fire (I wasn't using my stove because I was also kind of low on alcohol). This works in theory, but my water definitely came out tasting kind of ashy. Fortunately, Magellan showed up that night (hooray company) and I was able to borrow some iodine tabs from her. I know it sounds like I went out really unprepared, and I suppose I had, but if there had been people like normal there would have been no problems. In truth I would have been OK even if Magellan hadn't shown up, I would have just had to have moved a bit slower so I could boil water. Anyway, you live you learn. I will always now make sure that I have some emergency water treatment, just in case.
The next day was kind of standard, but I felt really good. There was a really great uphill section early that day. It wasn't super steep, but it was nice and long, and it really got the blood pumping. Its exactly the kind I like. It was actually quite invigorating. That afternoon, in rather sweltering weather, I crossed up over Dragon's Tooth, which has a very nice view. However, I think the most notable thing about that particular site is the climb down the other side. Going up wasn't bad at all. I was following a ridge so I would go up a ways and then walk flat for a whiel, all the way to the top. Going down the other side however, was something roughly akin to rock climbing. I mean that literally. There were several sections when I was crawling down a rock face on ridges in the rock. I think I may have gotten a little taste of what New Hampshire through Maine is going to be like. Magellan and I camped by a little stream about a mile past that descent for the evening, and we more or less ate and went to bed.
The next day was very short. I only did like eight miles (I couldn't move any faster because there was no reason to get Daleville before Thursday afternoon, as I was to meet a friend to come into Roanoke, which is where I am right now.) It was a very nice little walk though and in the afternoon after picking up a mail drop in Catawba I spent most of the afternoon hanging out on McAfee's knob, which boasts one of the best views I have seen thus far. I also took the required cliche pictures of myself sitting on the knob. It is apparently the most photographed spot on the trail. That night at the shelter, after several short days, were finally caught up by Stretch, Yorkie, Beat Box, and The Trail Dogs (Pooch and Tom Doolie); though these last two kept moving that evening. It was good to be back in the fold.
The next morning I got up around 5:45 (sorry about the alarm guys), and went back up to the Knob to watch the sunrise. It wasn't quite as good as the one I saw on Blood Mountain back in Georgia, but it wasn't exactly a slouch either. I took a few more cliched pictures and then returned to the shelter to pack up and start my day. The first six miles or so flew by. It was really pleasant hiking, but what really set them off was the fact that I SAW A BEAR. Actually I saw a bear and a cub. I only noticed them when they started running away from me up a hill. Even though it meant I only got to see them for a few moments, I'm glad they ran that way instead of towards me. I think what struck me the most was how small the cub was. I mean it was really tiny. From where I was it looked like a rabbit following this mama bear up the hill. I had no idea they were ever really that little.
The rest of the day was taken up by being really hot and feeling a bit overfull from eating too much lunch and drinking too much water as a result of the heat. Nonetheless, Beat Box and I made some rather blazing time and I got to Daleville around 3:30, where I hung out for a few hours until Mary Ellen and her grandfather came to pick me up and take me into Roanoke. It has been an immensley pleasant stay thus far. ME's grandmother served me a delicious late dinner when I got in and they have continued to be immensely hospitable hosts. I would like to say an enormous thank you to them.
On the subject of thank you's, I must say I have been remiss in not yet thanking Lee Tobin yet. For those of you who don't know Lee does the Gluten-Free baking for Whole Foods, and I have not tasted anything of his that wasn't phenomenol. Anyway, he has been kind enough to donate a large number of cookies and other such items to my hike, and I must say I am always looking forward to the next mail drop to see which item I'm going to get this time (right now its Chocolate Chip Cookies and Orange Cranberry Scones). If you haven't tried his stuff you really need to go to a Whole Foods and get some. Its all great stuff. Anyway, thats all for today. This week I think I will leave pictures of myself on McAfee's Knob at sunrise, and the broken down shelter that I stayed in. Enjoy.