From Spring Mountain Shelter we wanted to go 18 miles. If we kept up these big days, we would be able to make it to Erwin, TN, our next resupply point, by Saturday. According to the topology map, there was one sizeable uphill, but otherwise it looked like a fairly simple day.
Pretty shortly after starting, we ran into Lee, a 50 year old guy who we've several times around the trail. We would end up leapfrogging with him a lot through the day. He's a good fella. We later were to learn that he was last working on a weather damage assessment team. His last assement was in Massachusetts for Storm Stella. Before that he worked as... what was the title? Chicken production assessor for Tyson chicken. We asked him if he still ate chicken afterwards. The answer was yes, but not only yes, but that in his entrepreneurial 30's he started a "small" chicken farm of his own with 40,000 chickens.
After the first downhill, Emily's ankle started bothering her again. Lately, downhills have been the devil. It doesn't seem that the brace has been helping. So we are thinking it is more impact based. Unlike most people, she generally looks forward to uphills but not hills like today's terrain. This uphill was not the kind to look forward to. It was a couple of uphills in one. We took a nice, comfy collapse at the top. Lee passed us by and told us that Jimmy Buffet says to pace yourself.
Just when we thought we had gone 12, Lee popped up to informed us that we weren't as far along than we thought. We were off by a mile, but that's a big deal when every mile is at least thirty minutes. And worse when the trail guide said that the upcoming 1.5 miles were to be "rocky and strenuous." There was an easier, bad weather bypass trail, but we weren't about to do that.
The strenuous trail was in fact strenuous. Though it looked flat on the topology map, it had straight up and down on boulders (reminiscint of a real busy trail on the White Mountains). We did get some great views from some exposed ridges. Heading back down the rocks, did Emily's ankle no favors.
We decided to stop after about 16 miles at Jerry's Cabin Shelter, which, incidentally was just after the 300 mile mark. Though, truth be told, after the first 100 miles the 100 mile marks are less exciting.
We grabbed a site about a half mile or so past the shelter. It was on a ridge and just as we rolled into the shelter the wind started ripping. Funky couldn't even get his tarp to stay up. The ground was just soft enough that whenever the wind blew, it would rip his stakes out of the ground. Our tent, however, stood up just fine. Funky will be leaving the trail for a few weeks to go to Guatemala to help out at a school. He said he's coming back with a tent and a stove. He is getting less ultralight. Our warm food ways are winning out!