It's 37 degrees, not exactly the warmest start but at least it's dry. My first few miles are downhill, it's gorgeous out with a pink skyline underneath the cloud cover. The first person I see I manage to surprise while they're going to the bathroom. Oops, neither of us really wanted that little surprise.
Then it's time to climb, around 3000 ft over 5 miles up to Roan Mountain. I love the cold and the climbing today, I'm singing show tunes and trying not to startle the tents I pass. The trail is well maintained and full of well graded switchbacks but the icicles and frozen puddles prove how cold 6000 ft was last night.
I take a break at the top at Roan Mountain Shelter, finding Rest Stop and shivering away I try to inhale food before giving up and heading down to hopefully warmer trail.
As I start walking I'm startled by a hiker who spends a solid 5 minutes explaining to me how I'm not on the AT and am lost. He's so sure of himself I actually check my gps but he's wrong and I stop trying to argue. But it rattles me and the sudden overwhelming number of dayhikers and backpackers is startling.
It makes more sense when I come to Carvers Gap, a parking lot full of cars and the wide open Roan Highlands. I can understand why it's a popular section.
The balds are fantastic and so much warmer. Then it's back into the trees, and more climbing and balds. More views than I've seen in ages.
Looking back at Overmountain Shelter, a pretty red barn nestled in the hills.
More chatting with enthusiastic dayhikers, there's so much love for the trail out here it's great. I may not love crowds but I can appreciate how support for trails is a huge benefit.
The trail has been hopping in and out of North Carolina since the smokies but it's official now, Tennessee only now.
At I-19 I've caught Rest Stop and make the impromptu decision to hitch to town for dinner. It's delicious and an hour and a half later it's back on trail.
Just long enough to find a good flat spot and I'm good.
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