Day mileage: 17.5
AT total mileage: 434.4
Time: 7 hours
It's amazing how a shower makes me feel human again. I didn't really get a great night's sleep, waking up a few times, and eventually decided just before sunrise that I'd get up and shower a second time. It's the little things like standing under hot water that make me miss the 'real world'. Showers, and driving. There really are days where I get lost in thought, daydreaming about driving the Audi and punching her through the gears on an open highway. I can't wait to drive again.
I was on the trail by 8 am, walking down the road back to the Trail with Moe and Whitey. For the first half mile, the Appalachian Trail was as flat as its ever been. It was unbelievable to walk on a soft forest floor and not have to lift my knees any or put any real thought into walking. From there it ducked down into some exceptionally rocky descents, causing me to cautiously step from boulder to boulder, constantly aware of my knees and ankles being at risk. The reward for this descent: a gorgeous vista overlooking Laurel Falls. Whitey stayed for breakfast after we took a group picture, and Moe and I continued on. The trail followed a river in a fashion I can only describe as romantic, dancing back and forth between the water's edge and deep into the woods. It was quite serene and beautiful to be around as the sun crept its way over the ridges a thousand feet above and the light spilled into the crevices between the mountains.
After a while meandering along the river, the trail took a sharp right and began an absolutely pointless 2,000 foot climb over Pond Mountain. No sooner was the 2 mile ascent over that the trail then began an identical descent to a small pasture of horses that were quite inquisitive of my backpack. I took their photos, making my best horse noises in an effort to succeed with interspecies conversation, and headed across a busy two lane state road to a picnic area at the edge of Lake Watauga. I ate lunch there with a handful of hikers, spending almost an hour soaking up the sun and making 'real-life' phone calls to tidy up business that's been tough to keep up with while on the trail. After getting back onto the trail I had a wonderful phone call with my mom, then began an afternoon's climb out of the valley. There were multiple gorgeous vistas overlooking the 16 mile long lake in Johnson County, Tennessee. The heat and humidity were certainly present today, temperatures in the 70s and an uphill climb over the last 7 miles that completely negated my efforts of showering this morning. After crossing over one of the lakes two dams, the trail turned up towards a ridge of mountains alongside the lake and remained along that ridge for the rest of the day.
I arrived at Vandeventer Shelter around 1700hrs, and enjoyed taking some photos of the lake before enjoying a quick and warm dinner of soup and crackers and getting into my sleeping bag. I'll be going to sleep earlier than normal, and planning to hike a good distance tomorrow. I can hardly believe tomorrow is my 1 month anniversary of being on the Appalachian Trail. The sights, friends, memories, and experiences thus far have me extremely excited for what the rest of the mammoth walk will bring.
On a final and somewhat unrelated note... I wanted to thank everyone who reached out concerned during the three days of storms sweeping the southeast corner of the country. Friends, family, the guys on GarageJournal... It was great and at points somewhat comical to see how concerned you all were. But in all sincerity thank you all for worrying.
Until tomorrow, my friends. Enjoy a few photos.