Beast and I got started around 8:30, to a long, slow uphill in fog and cloud.
Unfortunately, Beast's problems with his pack came to a head. Exacerbated by the wet conditions, and just short of 5 miles into the day, he had to stop hiking and arrange for a shuttle back to Damascus. His incorrectly sized pack was impossible to correctly fasten the way it needed to be, so it didn't correctly sit on his hips, making it painful to wear.
His current plan is to work out a series of shuttles for slackpacking, since his current pack is usable when not fully loaded, and he'll attempt to keep up with me on the trail, hopefully actually hiking with me at some point. Hopefully, this'll no longer be a problem after Thursday, when his replacement pack arrives in Marion.
The afternoon proceeded uneventfully, though storm clouds continued to threaten. Hiking somewhat slowly this afternoon, I arrived at the Thomas Knob shelter around 3. At that point, I was undecided about whether to push on to the planned destination, Wise Shelter in the Grayson Highlands, only another 5 miles. The clouds blowing through looked somewhat nasty, though, so I collected water, made dinner, and after I was done, decided to stay, rather than make a late push for a likely full shelter.
Thomas Knob shelter was one of the few two-story shelters so far, with a nice loft area. The shelter also has a great view
There were some wild ponies near the trail towards the shelter, though I was focused on getting to the shelter before the rain (that didn't come) that I didn't really look for them, or detour to get closer.
Tomorrow's plan: at least 16 miles to Hurricane Mountain Shelter, and possibly another 9 to the Trimpi Shelter.