Today was our longest day yet, at 20.7 miles. Beast and I got an early start, around 8 am, hoping to make it to our optimistic destination today, No Business Knob Shelter, before possible rains began.
Most of the day was cool and overcast, and the early uphill out of Hogback Ridge Shelter, and a later uphill up and over Big Bald Mountain eventually gave way to (largely) friendly downhills.
Early in the day, we crossed under I-26. On the other side of the road, in the understatement of the century, the AT was signed "Walking Trail". Later, a sign called out a side trail as "Nature Trail" (if that was a nature trail, then what does that make the AT?).
After our first scheduled stop at Bald Mountain Shelter after about 10 miles, our spirits and energy levels were still good, and we took off shortly after noon for Spivey Gap, about 5 miles further, our first of two possible destinations for the day.
At Spivey Gap, as we were starting to collect and filter water, someone came down from the gap to let us know there was trail magic just a short way up the hill. (We had heard them and their dog, but didn't realize there was magic.)
Courtesy of trail angel Rob Byrd, there were an assortment of sugary snack foods, and soda and, a first for trail magic, beer!
After a nice long break in comfy chairs (well, any chair is comfortable after hiking 15 miles!) they had, Beast and I returned to the creek to finish collecting and filtering water, and recharged with soda and sugar, charged up the final hill of the day, towards No Business Knob.
After a stop close to the shelter to collect water, we reached the No Business Knob shelter around 5:30, which, fortunately, was not full.
It's been a long day, and my feet are tired, but it's pretty awesome to have been able to do a 20+ mile day so soon and not feel completely drained at the end of it. (Ok, the 15 miles of downhill today may have been a contributing factor.)
Tomorrow: a short six miles into Erwin, TN. Time to relax!