April 29 - USFS 230 campground (354.2)

Rain arrives in the early morning and bangs away on the steel hostel roof. Wake up at six, and weather app shows rain all day but a break in an hour for an hour, so I hurry to get up, packed, and fed. Three others are going to slack pack 20 miles back to the hostel, which allows them to hike relatively unencumbered, get in big miles, and come back to a bed tonight. Think about joining them, but decide I like the hike too much. Off at 7:15.

Like every other time coming out of town, met with up hills which continue throughout the day, although with 2,400 feet rise over twelve plus miles, it is easier than Georgia. North Carolina tends to give you a STEEP up, then level a bit. Georgia would have you wind around on switchbacks, go up a peak, then down into a gap, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Make first shelter (4.7 miles) around 10:00 and the hikers there are still getting ready to get on trail.  Quick bite then continue. At Indian Grave Gap there's light trail magic by "DT", and he is making sure everyone cleans their hands first because Norovirus is on the trail. Sweet tea, brownies, carrots, apples among other things. Ask if he is a hiker, DT says "No, I'm just an angel." Two hikers ask about Achin.

Remainder of hike is up with an eventual sharp ascent strewn with rocks. See Jersey Girl who's slacking to finish the southern portion of her oft delayed AT hike, and then the hostel slackers, who were trying to figure out when we'd meet. It's 12:40 and they'd guessed 1:15. Nosh on a light lunch to finish up last two miles.

Hike across Beauty Spot Gap, another swath of grassland but without the views. See some hikers setting up down near a parking lot but see no car. They seem to be struggling to set up.

Find camp area and water, so start to set up.  Up come the parking lot hikers, led by Sketch from Hot Springs. Get introduced to the other three hikers, and he tells me their tents collapsed during the rain last night, and they all ended up piling into a one person tent. With the dog.

I look at "the dog", and it is as big as a bear, "Baloo" is wolf hound mix, friendly enough, who begins to mark the camping area. Sketch warns me he doesn't like thunder, and will try to back into any standing tent during a storm.

Still no rain and now none forecast. Sun comes out and things warm up nicely.