By morning, sadly, Bambi and Spike still had not arrived. Today we hoped to make either 19 or 23 miles. Yes, this sounds strange. We wanted to make a lot of miles to get closer to Damascus for the imminent Tyler parent meeting. They would actually be arriving kn May 13th so we are getting our butts in gear. And the reason for 19 or 23 is that after 19 miles we reach the lake Watauga region which is a section currently closed to camping due to heavy bear activity. Anyway, 19 or 23 it is.
We headed out around 9:45 and hiked for fifteen minutes or so and then stretched. That is something we should definitely do more often. After a few more miles, we stopped in a surprise meadow for lunch. It was really shaping up to be a beautiful day. Two days in a row would really take some astronomical kind of chance.
After ten miles we made it to Dennis Cove Gap. We planned on going to Kincora Hostel to buy a new fuel canister since our giant 16 oz can was finally run dry (We hadn't bought fuel since Stecoah Gap, mile 170, since the De and Piper Wal-Mart run only had the giant 16oz fuel). Also at the gap was Yard Dart and Miss Bobbie. We got cupcakes, a couple Gatorades, and cheese sandwiches from Yard Dart. Magic as always. We then headed to Kincora Hostel, .2 miles down the road. Kincora is run by Bob Peoples who is responsible for the trails around the area. He has been blamed for unnecessarily creating impossibly long switchbacks, though there are ecological reasons this must be done, it doesn't stop hikers from writing many silly jokes about him in the shelters.
Sadly, Bob Peoples was out running trail errands when we tried to grab fuel and meet him. We did, however, run into Target and Eulalia (her real name) whole there. We had previously met them at Greasy Creek Friendly. They seem like cool cats and it was good to see them again. They were headed out again that day.
Tyler planned on walking to another hostel in the area called Black Bear Hostel (.4 miles the other direction) to get the fuel. However, Yard Dart and Miss Bobbie, like true super heroes, came through again. Yard Dart went into his bag of tricks and pulled out an 8 oz fuel canister. He said it was one Miss Bobbie turned in for a fresh one, but we think it was full and he just told us that to not make us feel bad about taking a full fuel canister. We will find a way to repay their kindness.
Now that we had our fuel, we were ready to head out again. Though the day had been gorgeous, we hadn't seen anything to have rivaled the falls from the day before. Laurel Falls changed that. The pictures will speak better than we can here. Even more wonderful, the trail runs along a narrow cliff above the river for a few hundred yards after the falls. There is a high water trail, but luckily we didn't need to use it.
After a few miles along the river, we arrived at the challenge for the day, Pond Mountain. It was 2000 feet up and then down over the course of five or so miles. The topology on the map looked like a equilateral triangle. It was horrible. Luckily, Emily was some sort of hiking robot and charged up the thing like it was flat. The charge brought us to victory. A victory rewarded with no view and a weak stream to get some more water. We made our own reward by calling Papa Hutch from the top to make plans for the met up. We knew, at this point, we couldn't make 23 miles so two 21 mile days separated us from Damascus. We were going to try it.
We practically rolled down the mountain to a campsite just before Watauga Lake (mile 426.6). We had to get more water since the site was dry from .5 miles beyond (at the lake itself), so Tyler skedaddled to get water and in the process ran into Obi Wan Potato and Auntie (new meeting) having a beautiful beach party. They told us to definitely hit up the area for breakfast tomorrow. It was stunning.
Back at the campsite, we met Katie, Roboknee. She has a crazy knee brace though still knocks out crazy miles. She also writes for the trek (https://thetrek.co/author/katie-sandage/) She also also has a wicked great snort when she laughs hard which happened quite a few times during our quiet three person night. She currently works as a city naturalist and teaches city kids about nature and takes them on outings. The fact that that job exists and people like her run it, is freakin' great.