Today got started early. Most of the shelter was awake before sunrise, and Beast and I were gone by 7:45, 45 minutes earlier than we usually manage to leave camp. Today featured long uphills that, on account of my cold, still sapped my energy, but I still managed to make it the 15.1 miles to Hogback Ridge Shelter, 5 miles short of our optimistic goal, but still in line with our original plan.
Shortly after we started, we came across a second 300 mile marker, this time made out of sticks, rather than rhododendron leaves.
The trail, continuing to follow the Tennessee/North Carolina border, headed south most of the day, largely pointing us away from Maine. We'll be heading north again tomorrow, though.
Early in the day, after crossing a road, we saw a sign tacked to a tree:
Hikers: Please help! If a dog Comes to you on The Trail, Please run Them off. They will follow you, But they live here. We have lost 4 This Year. Please Run Them Back. Thank You
(Capitalization and double-underline as in the original sign, which also included a phone number.) Another note further down the trail elaborated that the dogs had been hit by cars after following hikers, and that the family's young son was upset. I hate to make light of a sad situation, but I think, perhaps, after losing their first dog, a fence would have been in order. That they seem to be on dog number five, still without a fence, suggests that perhaps this family just isn't cut out to own pets.
Spring continues to assert itself. While the trees are just beginning to develop buds, the forest floor is a nice shade of green, and the mountain vistas are slowly trading browns for greens.
Late in the afternoon, at the Hogback Ridge Shelter, a day hiker came into camp brandishing a machete. After taking a couple of whacks at a log, he stopped in front of the shelter, while everyone there eyed him suspiciously. "Oh, I'm a trail maintainer," he said, and identified himself as Hollywood, with the local AT club, after which everyone relaxed.
The water source and privy here are about the furthest from the shelter that I can remember. The privy is also one of the worst. While it has a great view, there's no door (not unusual) or partition of any sort (rather unusual) in the front, and it's somewhat difficult to see if anyone is coming up the path to the privy. Still beats a cathole, though.
Tomorrow: hoping for a 20.7 mile day which will put us 6 miles out of Erwin. Weather's looking iffy tomorrow, and lousy on Friday.