10-24-09 day 144
start: Hogback Ridge Shelter, TN/NC
end: Little Laurel Shelter, TN/NC
daily mileage: 21.5
total mileage: 1886.9
We woke up several times during the night to howling wind and pouring rain, but by the time the morning came it promised to be a nice, sunny day. We hiked in the warm sun for a few miles, but the weather soon turned morbidly overcast again and a dense fog descended for the rest of the day, making it kind of cold and damp.
We met some young guys sitting in the middle of the trail. We asked them what they were doing and apparently, they were out bear hunting. Nice! They had 4 dogs between them, and when I passed, were in the process of buiding a fire in the middle of the trail (not the best place).
We summitted a mighty mountain called "Big Butt" today, which was not only very funny but also marked our official 300-miles-from-Springer-Mountain point! Woo hoo! Getting insanely close... in fact, it's kind of weird. I'm really starting to feel like our time on the trail is limited (before it always seemed like it was OK to miss a view or something if I was feeling lazy, since it felt like we were going to be on the trail forever... now it really seems like we need to savour everything for these last few weeks!). A bizarre feeling. It's exciting, but I'm also feeling more nostalgic than I thought I would at this point... I kind of figured that would come after we got home!
We got to the top of a super misty ridge and it was almost dark (despite being the middle of the afternoon), and the wind and dark puddles of water everywhere made it seem awesomely spooky. Definitely monsters there. Then we met up with some of those bear-hunting dogs with huge tracking collars around their necks, which was reassuring because they seemed super lost. They followed us for about a mile down the trail, but left just as we were starting to worry that we'd aquired pets. We finally got into the shelter earlier than we figured we would... we are actually pretty quick hikers when we don't spend all day dawdling! A quick 19 tomorrow into Hot Springs, where we'll encounter the latest in our series of hostels in our recent hostel-to-hostel hike.