Mile: 543.9 - 568.6 (24.7 miles)
It's nice to wake up in a real bed and eat bagels for breakfast. No effort required. I call and find out that Funsize and Pie can get a bus back to Mt Rogers where they got off at 0830 and I can get one at 0930 for 50 cents. Done and done. They head out and I get a few minutes to myself. It's already heating up and I have 4 days of food, this is the heaviest my pack has been in ages. How did I ever carry 6 days of food and 5 liters of water on the other trails?
The glamorous view heading out of Atkins, yes the trail is the road under the overpass.
At the top of a climb I glimpsed a range of mountains to my west. I had an immediate flashback to the CDT and being in a pasture looking at a range of mountains, thinking how beautiful but then a sinking sensation knowing the snow and elevation and general difficulty that was for sure to come. This trail has been such a treat, it can be hard and it's a ton of climbing but I never get that sinking oh god what next feeling. The bugs and the heat are coming and there are always hard times but it's been such a treat to be on the AT.
The trail is well graded and the rhododendrons are starting to bloom.
Climbing up and down through dense tunnels and under the green canopy.
This happened, although apparently it's not the technical quarter way mark its close enough, at some point I passed the mile marker today. Since the trail changes just a little all the time I'm not too picky on exact miles and signs.
There are pastures on either side of me and a cool breeze and the small of freshly cut grass. Farms are in the distance and I found a corner to find trail magic. How fantastic. A couple from Indiana who drive down every year since there son hiked in 2014.
At the next road there's more trail magic from a church group but they've stopped got the day. But some hikers from Damascus were also there and had sodas so it was still pretty exciting. What a day.
I got some good advice from Rest Stop on the trail early on, if you're feeling lonely or in a funk slow down a bit and chat with other hikers. I was actually feeling great but I was chatting with such a nice group during a snack break that I spent the next mile plus with them. I had no desire to camp at 5 but it was a great way to pass some time, learn about some awesome people and I'll definitely be making it more of a habit. I love hiking all day but I think especially on a crowded trail like this one it's a great practice.
In the evening I'm on a trail magic and people induced high, feeling great and flying up the trail. The trail is mostly rock free, sweat is pouring into my eyes as I'm practically skipping up the trail in love with rhododendrons and hiking. Yup today is great.
I make it up to the open ridge line of Chestnut Knob after a solid 2000 ft plus climb and enjoy dinner at the shelter.
It's a good crowd but I hike on just a little for solitude and haphazardly set up my tent on an old rocky road bed.
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