As I started the day, the skies were clear but the trail and plants were wet from the evening storm. The air felt very clean. About 2 miles in, I saw three bears: two adults and one cub. The cub was on the opposite side of the trail from the adults so I retreated a bit and waited until they had regrouped and headed toward the valley. I was in Tennessee so I’m counting these as Tennessee bears. That is 19 total bears.
I didn’t see or hear any human animals on the trail until right before lunchtime. I heard two men talking and rounded the corner to see them trying to maneuver over and around tree limbs that were across the trail from a tree that had fallen recently. I quietly closed the distance between us and started climbing through the limbs one step behind them. They didn’t know I was there until they had both crossed over and turned to look at the tree. We all got a big laugh out of their being surprised.
I hiked a short distance further with them and we had lunch together at the Flint Mountain Shelter. They were from the nearby town of Greeneville and their names were Dave and Danny. Dave is section hiking the AT but this weekend they were just out to enjoy a couple nights on the trail. It was so nice to meet these two.
After lunch, the trail went across a very rocky ridge called Firescald with sweet views for about 1.5 miles. The descent off the ridge was also very rocky. I was running down the trail with my loaded pack enjoying the technical descent when I came upon 5 guys in their mid 20’s. They all stepped to the left of the trail so I could pass. I kept running and easily stepping rock to rock as I went past them. I heard one of them say, “Damn, that was awesome!”. That totally made this middle aged lady’s day. Haha.
Martha had hiked in from the south and meet me at Little Laurel Shelter. We decided to tent near there. The 5 guys rolled in to camp a little later and camped across the trail from us. Ended up one of them lives in Avondale. We enjoyed getting to know them and others that were there for the night. Martha had read the trail register and informed me that Dropknife is only one day ahead and was heading into Hot Springs today.