Today was one of my favorite days on the trail. We were on balds most of the day and so had fantastic views. We hiked 14.3 miles and we spent most of it above 5000 feet, then ended the day by coming down out of the highlands. I would definitely come back and rehike this section.
The day started with a school bus rolling into the gap we were camped at and an eighth grade science class emerging. I was still packing up but could hear them talking to Honey Badger as she went by and asking her questions. The teacher had told the kids about thru hikers already so they were ready with Snickers bars for trail magic. I came around the corner of the latrine and heard a few of them whisper, “Look, there’s another one!” It reminded me of when Stretch and I were camped by the river in Hot Springs and we packed up to head back to Elmer’s in town. As we were walking back up the trail, we ran into someone with a video camera set up and pointed up the trail so that we had to walk through the shot. We started joking about hikers in their natural habitat. Look at these two just waking up. They must be hungry!
The class didn’t bother me then but I passed them on Round Bald soon after and they had tons of questions. Turns out their teacher does trail maintenance so they were pretty well informed already. They also sang to another hiker whose birthday it was.
We left the kids behind on Jane Bald, where there were great views back to Roan Mountain, and then we made it to Overmountain Shelter for lunch. It’s a big old barn with more great views of the valley below and I had a hard time leaving it, although it was pretty windy and chilly up there. I didn’t have my pack with me as the barn was off the trail by .3 mile and I had left it at the trailhead and did not have my jacket.
From the shelter, we climbed up Little Hump Mountain and then Hump Mountain, gorgeous views again, before heading downhill the remainder of the day. Those mountains were cool because you were mostly out in the open and could see the top of the mountain you were climbing the whole time, although Hump Mountain did had several false summits.
On the way down, we left North Carolina for good so that’s a second state done with! We’ve already been in Tennessee for a while because the trail has almost followed the border since the Smokies and we would cross back and forth a few times a day, but now we will stay in Tennessee until Virginia.
We finally made it down to the road just in time for dinner and hitched into the town of Roan Mountain to go to Bob’s Dairyland, which we had heard has amazing burgers and ice cream. It did. I had the Boss Burger, which was two patties, ham, bacon, two cheeses, and lots of toppings, plus broccoli cheddar bites and a peach milkshake. I had room for more but didn’t want to get overfull so I refrained from ordering seconds.
We then caught a ride back to the trail to camp with SoWay, Pilgrim, and Spicoli. Hitching so far has been very easy but today, because it was a larger road and the speed limit higher, we didn’t get the first car to stop. It still took less than five minutes to get a ride each way but Stretch was ready to give up after the first car didn’t stop and just walk the several miles to town. We’ve been spoiled.