No meteors were seen last night unfortunately. It was very warm this morning in the meadow because there were no trees to block the sun so I didn’t want to get out of my tent and again started late. I found Jigsaw’s spork on the ground and caught up to her at the first water source to return it. I fully filled my water bottles today since the only other sources for the first 10 miles were at shelters and I’m still avoiding them.

There was a “rocky and strenuous” area pretty early on that led to some fun rock scrambles and great views on Big Firescald Knob. We also ran into a few more memorials/graves today, which is totally cool. Some of these are surprisingly recent. I don’t know what it takes to get permission to be buried on the trail but I want that.

We stopped for lunch at a bald ridge on the way up Big Butt Mountain and then stopped a couple of more times in sunny, grassy fields. They just have to be laid in. We finally sped up around 3:00 since we’d only done around 7 miles at that point and were able to finish with 13.3 miles for the day. Stretch and I were planning on staying on the trail but got hijacked once again.

When we got to Devil’s Fork Gap, we saw a sign for a small grocery only 1.5 miles away and we were planning on a hitch in to resupply tomorrow at lunch so decided if we could do this instead, that would work. We didn’t know which direction it was in so the first car I waved down, the woman confirmed the direction but she wasn’t sure if it would still be open. She had a baby in the car and stuff all over so I didn’t ask for a ride. She offered to take my number and call me if it was still open but I declined since I didn’t know if I’d even have a signal. The next truck that drove by stopped and confirmed it was still open but he was going the wrong way so I didn’t ask for a ride. The next truck was going the right way and let us hop in the back for the ride down the hill. When we got to the parking lot, the first lady was just turning around there to come back and tell us the store was open.

We got to the Laurel Trading Post and were able to resupply. The owner was super nice and he also could prepare sandwiches so I got a grilled ham and cheese and chips and soda for dinner in addition to my resupply. He let me charge my phone and offered the use of the bathroom and tenting out back too. We were packing up when we decided to see if we could get one more sandwich and even though he was about to close, he said we could take as long as we wanted and he made us the meat lover’s sandwiches, which were huge. I was finally full after that.

He had a couple of relatives that had been hanging out in the store and talking to us and I think were waiting to offer to drive us back up. We went out on the porch and suddenly were being told to cover our ears because he was about to shoot some targets in the yard. Totally random and then here comes Miss Janet and SoWay and Uncle Buck driving in while this is happening. Miss Janet had gone to pick up Uncle Buck at the gap where we got off and hadn’t heard of the new grocery before and was concerned because it had been a while since we’d been down there so they came down after us, only to see us waving and smiling from the porch while shooting is going on in the yard.

We introduced the owner to Miss Janet since he wants to get more involved with the trail and be helpful to hikers and she is super involved in pretty much every aspect of the trail. Then she offered to drive us back up so we hopped in the van. We resituated the store’s sign at the gap and added some notes to it so it’d be more useful for hikers, then decided to head back to Erwin with Miss Janet and slackpack the next couple of days into Erwin, which means carrying just a day pack instead of everything and so you can do more miles each day.

We hung out for a while, I got a shower, then bed. Big miles tomorrow.

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