Currently sitting at the picnic table...
Today was all about the wildlife. Perhaps it was an omen that the area near where I tented contained two horses and one giant pig. I walked up the road from the grocery back to the trail and began my climb up from the road. Right off the bat I saw two deer. That's not unusual, but it set a tone. I soon came across a skunk walking away from the trail. I stopped to look at him, and he stopped to look at me, so I made our interaction a brief one. Not 100 yards down the trail, I almost stepped on a turtle. For some reason, this scared me more than the skunk. I leapt a couple feet in the air. I just wasn't expecting it! During the course of the day, I saw plenty more deer, two turkeys (they're still very awkward flyers), a grouse, and another turtle. I feel like I'm forgetting something. Anyways, you get it. My hike up to Jenny Knob Shelter was quick, yet painful. The side of my right foot started to hurt. I gave a sigh of "here we go again" and stopped at the shelter, where I removed both shoes and the ace bandage that wraps around my shin and foot. Lucky for me, the tightness of the ace was the culprit. I re-wrapped it before resuming and instantly felt 100 percent better. Crisis averted!
I had read in the shelter log that the walk to the next shelter would be really smooth. I got what I was expecting. I'm gonna get spoiled on these long, flat sections of trail! It was a good thing too, because I went six miles without an identifying mark in my guide, just ridge walking. I would have gone crazy if I had been going slowly. Descending from the ridge, I started to hear road noise from the nearby interstate, I-77. For my whole life, this road has been the connector between my home in South Carolina and my extended family in Ohio. Only in the last few years did I realize the AT even crossed it at this point. Since then, I would stare longingly at the bridge, wondering if I would ever journey across it. In June, once my trip was about to become a reality, the distance from Maine to western Virginia overwhelmed me. How would I ever make it back to this overpass? Welp, today I crossed it. I've been above and below many interstates on this trip, but this one was the best. I even got a little emotional, following up with a whoop to salvage my macho image. I stood at US 52 for a bit to see if I could get a hitch into Bland to enjoy a Subway sandwich, but nothing materialized. With less than seven miles to go to my projected endpoint for the night, I took this as a cosmic sign that I should push past Laurel Creek campsite and head to the shelter. More miles under my belt and a roof over my head sounded like a win-win.
I kept my plans tentative, because making a decision to push past a point before you're actually there can be troublesome (I would know). Luckily for me, the walk down the ridge to Laurel Creek was just as fast as any other point in the last two days. I got to the campsite at 3:45 and felt good, so it was a no-brainer to keep clicking. I was feeling tired, but I wasn't flat-out exhausted. The trail had been kind. It helped to know that once I completed a short climb back up to the ridge, I would be done working for the day. After that I would walk on level ground before dropping into a gap for the shelter. I did just that. My legs were fatigued, but nothing was injured. Satisfied, I walked up the path to the shelter. There I found Jim, the flip-flop thru-hiker I keep running into, and Bill, a section hiker. Bill is accompanied by Coffee, a very friendly and well-behaved dog. Coffee and I hung out as I made dinner, and Bill gave me provolone cheese. I love cheese. My main course was rice mixed with instant mashed potatoes and a new addition of imitation bacon bits. I may be vegetarian, but that doesn't mean I can't party too. Now I'm n the shelter because the rain has finally come. I hope it keeps up all night. There's nothing better than listening to the rain. Well yes there is, but it's still pretty nice.