Got a great night of sleep last night. Decided to shelter it, and despite ending up right next to a snorer, I think I was out in less than 5 min. No one else showed up to the shelter after we arrived, other than the Boy Scouts looking for the rest of their group, so it was just 4 of us in the shelter and Tarzan in his tent. Rained a good portion of the night, but had stopped when I woke up around 6:45am. Tried something new for breakfast today. Whenever we go into a town, I always get a quart of chocolate milk. 1- because I realize I don't get enough calcium while on the trail, 2- because it has a lot of calories, and 3- because chocolate milk is just plain delicious. So at the grocery store in Damascus, Tarzan and I picked up some powdered milk. This morning I mixed powdered milk, chocolate protein mix, and Starbucks VIA instant coffee. It was amazing! Like an iced coffee to go! I think I'll be continuing this! At least until my Starbucks that my brother in law, Aaron hooked me up with, runs out. Then I'll have to go to some cheaper brand. What can I say, the Starbucks is great, but I'm a hiker on a budget!
Hiked a lot of uphill today, going from around 3,000 ft to about 5,400 ft. Most of the day was consistent uphill that challenged my legs and lungs. A girl hiking told us about some trail magic ahead at a bridge on the Creeper Trail. The Creeper is an old railroad bed that was turned into a long and scenic bike path. Very popular, yet this is the first I've heard of it. Looks really great. I'd like to come back some day to ride it. Got to the trail magic, which looked like some leftover food another hiker had left on a bench. Although, I scored some Coleman Southwest Chili, and Flosser took a giant protein meal replacement bar. We made it to a shelter 6 miles from where we left this morning and had lunch. Some other hikers we know got creative and designed Hiker Monopoly and drew it on the floor of the shelter. Looked awesome! Had lunch and headed back to the trail. Shortly down the trail we came to a road and when crossing a creek to get to the road, found some Modelo beer chilling in the cold water, and a single Coke. We took a break and enjoyed it!
Got back to the trail and hit some serious rocky uphill. Made it up to Buzzard Rocks, but couldn't see anything as we were in a cloud. It was cold and windy too. Pushed on and made it past Whitetop Mountain, then descended to a road before starting more of the climb up to Mt Rogers. There it was foggy, cold, and windy too. We ran into a hiker who had been picking and eating what he and his friend thought were wild onions. Not sure if they were or not, but his friend had been throwing up for a while today, so someone was coming to pick him up. And THAT is why I don't forage for food, thank you. We took advantage of the bathroom there, and even used it to step into to put more clothes on for our next ascent. Cold, foggy, and windy as we climbed over the bald area. The trees offered some nice cover from the wind, but it began sleeting on us a little. Climbed up up and up to Thomas Knob Shelter about 300 vertical feet and half a mile below the summit of Mt Rogers. Tarzan took a nice slip and fall off a rock onto the ground. Luckily he was alright and before he was able to get up I asked him to stay in position so I could get a picture. Tons of horse dung on the trail. There are wild ponies and horses that roam this mountain and the park we came to next called the Grayson Highlands. Flosser took a spot in the nearly full shelter. Tarzan and I went to get water then searched around for camping spots out of the nasty wind. Finally found a decent spot, and it started sleeting as we set up tents. Made the chili I had picked up, and it was amazing, especially considering the temp was now just below 30 degrees. I got out to go hang the food bags in a tree, and it was snowing and accumulating on the ground and our tents already! That is something we haven't seen yet on the trail. Unfortunately we already sent home our warmer sleeping pads when we swapped out for the Big Agnes pads we are field testing for them! Luckily we still have our winter sleeping bags though!
It's gonna be a cold one. My temp is currently reading 25 degrees in my tent and I can hear the snow building up and then sliding off the sides. Looking forward to some more moderate temps, and currently wishing I was in a warm house in front of a fireplace right now!