Mile 418.2 - 446.7 (28.5 miles)
I don't sleep as well as I did the night before. At 2 am I'm restless and wide awake, sitting outside on the porch petting a cat and watching a raccoon. The 2 am special I suppose.
I do eventually go back to sleep, it's 50 miles to Damascus and my new much longed for shoes. My right foot has a 3 inch vent up the side, airflow is nice but this is excessive. Since I took a day off here at Bob's place I don't think I'll zero in Damascus anymore. It sounds better to stop just a little short and get there Saturday morning so I'm in no rush.
It's raining when I wake up again, dawdling I pack up and chat with the other hikers. We all have similar plans so I'm sure ill be seeing them these next few days.
The falls hiding behind trees
Then it's beautiful misty trail along the Laurel Fork. You can see all of Bob's beloved rock work. Impressive switchbacks of rock steps. Bridges and white blazes are my only company with the river and the birdsong. It's a welcome quiet.
It's a long climb and then right back down to Watauga Lake. It's a real road with houses, picnickers and fishermen on the lake. Culture shock as usual. The trail skirts the lake and closure signs are everywhere. There's been a lot of bear activity in this area and it's a no camping, lingering or anything at all zone right now. Hikers had food taken just 2 days ago but other than scat no bear encounters for me today.
Man made dam, guessing not a natural lake then
The trail seems to spend most of the afternoon following the ridge line with continuous small rolling climbs. My energy has disappeared and I'm in a mental funk, needless to say time passes strangely. It's quiet and other than a southbound section hiker I see no one.
The evening feels like a rainforest, it's misty and damp with ferns and grass everywhere. I finally see people at Iron Mountain Shelter but I push on. Damascus tomorrow evening is starting to sound more appealing.
I end up on planks across bogs my last mile and push closer than I expected. It's drizzling again, glad I got my tent up in time
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