Most of today was spent climbing into the Roan Highlands, elevation over 6000 feet again. I got a late start and tried to stop at the awesome views at Little Rock Knob for second breakfast but the gnats were too annoying to be able to eat so I moved on. Lunch at Hughes Gap then the major climb of the day started.
The first 2.5 miles were fine and had a nice, easy grade on the switchbacks. Then they suddenly forgot what switchbacks were and the last .9 mile just went straight up. It took me almost as long as the first part because it was steep, rocky, and muddy. I finally made it to the top but the facilities there are closed for another month so that was disappointing.
Apparently there used to be a resort on top of the mountain in the late 1800s / early 1900s called Cloudlands and I came across a random chimney on the trail, remnants of it. Then it was back downhill over a very rocky section that killed my feet. I was planning for a break at the next gap to put my feet up but when I got down to Carvers Gap, there was trail magic! A couple whose son hiked last year were barbecuing and had lots of beer, soda, fruits, veggies, snacks, and sausages. They drove 4 hours to do this too.
It was so good and so many hikers came in to hang out that I got stuck there. I had intended to hike several more miles to Overmountain Shelter, a big old barn, but most of us decided to just stay at the gap instead. We got a good campfire going and did some riddles before bed. Only 11 miles for the day but it felt much longer.
Wildlife sighting: I finally saw a grouse today. I’ve been hearing them since the Smokies, a low vibrating sound. Until I knew what it was, I thought it was my heart beating out of whack. I started hearing it today though and saw the wings flapping out of the corner of my eye and making the sound. I tried to get closer to see the grouse better but it moved away.