Sunday night was my last night stealth camping by myself on this thru hike. I’m so glad to have friends joining me for the other nights. But I know there will be times in the future when I will miss the moments of solitude I’ve enjoyed this summer.

I finished hiking up Bluff Mountain and on to Walnut Mountain Shelter. There were a lot of hikers on the trail and at the shelter for a Monday morning. This must be a really popular section because of Max Patch. I met Loon and Shepherd at the shelter. Loon is completing his 5th hike of the AT. He did a few thru hikes but the last couple have been section hikes. He was a walking story book. Shephard had thru hiked as a SOBO two years ago.

I told them about my plan to hike out west next summer and hike shorter days so I will have time for fishing in mountain lakes. Shephard had done this in the Smokies and was very enthusiastic about my plan. The three of us visited for around 30 minutes. It felt like we were old friends by the time we parted ways. Speaking of meeting people on the trail……I believe Dropknife took a zero day in Hot Springs so I’m now ahead of her. Hopefully I will meet her in the Smokies next weekend.

Next I stopped at the top of Walnut Mountain and used the good cell coverage to check in with my online class. All was going well. I commented on a few new discussion board posts, answered a few student emails, and then started hiking to Max Patch. Along the way, I met Angel and AJ. They were from Florida. We hiked up Max Patch together and then to my car. I was enjoying my time with them but it was time for me to get back to town and finish preparing for my 4 classes that will meet tomorrow for the first time. I’m looking forward to meeting my students and getting back in the teaching groove.

As far as the hike goes, I’ve now completed everything except from Davenport Gap to the NOC and Hogpen Gap to Springer. Two more long weekends should finish up this baby. Thank you to my Department Chair for letting me miss a couple Friday meetings so that this could be possible.

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