After the really chilly weather the past few nights I woke up this morning only 9 trail miles away from crossing Highway 321 just outside of Boone! I hiked through Moses H. Cone Park, by the Cone Manor, and along very slightly graded carriage roads. I imagined this is what the PCT is like, descending half-mile long switchbacks at perhaps a 6% grade.
Mount Mitchell was cold, windy and rainy when Sideshow and I got up there, and it poured on us all the way down to Black Mountain Campground. It was a miserable afternoon, and I was so distraught that we ended up paying for camping there instead of hiking on in the rain to some free campsites 1/2 a mile down the road/trail.
After Mitchell, though, the trail doesn't go above 5,000 feet in elevation again. The closest I got was about 4,300 feet on the Tanawha Trail around Grandfather Mountain, which is where it sleeted! The winds have been biting the past few days, and I have kept hiking with my long johns on under my pants to keep my legs warm. Usually I would have to stop to take off the long johns after 20 minutes of brisk hiking.
It seems the most strenuous parts of the trail are behind me. At least that's according to Bob Benner, who was painting blazes with the trail maintenance crew I met the other day before Harper Creek. He's been working on the trail for about as long as it has been around. I enjoyed talking with him, and I thanked him and the rest of the crew for keeping the trail passable.
When I got into Price Park, though, the trail was a recently dug ditch with a long pipe beside it. The construction workers told me the trail was closed and directed me to the park campground. I saw three deer as I walked through the picnic area next to the campground, the first deer I'd seen all trip! The campground attendant told me that not the entire Boone Fork Trail was closed, but since I had come this far in the wrong direction, I could take the other side of the BFT loop to where the MST breaks off near the backcountry campsite, where I spent the night.
Now I'm in Boone. I met up with an old friend, Matt, from Scouts. He picked me up at the trail crossing on the Parkway, and then I filled up at Golden Corral. I had eaten all of my food from my previous resupply in Marion. I ate the last of my oatmeal and cereal bars this morning to get me to town! I literally only had one mustard and three ketchup packets left in my food bag, so I timed that resupply just right!
I met two other thru-hikers just as I left Black Mountain near the Folk Art Center. They started September 1, and had been taking it very slow. They said they had taken more zero days (days where one hikes zero miles) than days they had actually hiked. I expect they are a few days behind me now.
Also, don't ever skimp on your shoes when long-distance hiking. My $39 pair of trail runners from REI-Outlet.com are falling apart, and I only hope they make it close enough to Greensboro that I can have my mom bring me my trusty Salomons from the Appalachian Trail. At least my blisters have callused over now!