May 16 - Knot Maul Branch Shelter (556.1)

Up at 6 and check outside, overcast and chilly. Watch weather, temperatures have dropped and so cooler for about a week (or longer?). Good for hiking and sleeping, and no rain expected for days.
I head out first at 6:50 and get to enjoy cool conditions, sunny skies, and nice terrain. Walk through first of three active cattle pastures but only see cattle in the distance. 

See only two other hikers on the Trail in the first half of the day, which continues a trend for the day; Trail Days has pulled a lot of hikers off Trail. Ninth mile has another opportunity to walk through an active cattle field.

At about ten miles, just before noon, stop at a small Holston River Bridge to get a light lunch. Two SOBO section hikers are there, and they say there's Magic up the Trail a bit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Cokes in coolers. Drop pack and walk up Trail to the coolers, which have been getting stocked it looks like daily for weeks by two former thru hikers. Take two of each, leave a thank-you note in the registry, and return down to the bridge, which has gushing post-rain muddy water rushing underneath it, for lunch.

The sun is shining and I take my time, assuming the faster hiking Hermes will arrive while I'm there and we can complete the last four miles together. Finish, laze around a while, and decide to continue. Get to shelter at 1:50, and sit down to wait on Hermes. There's another campsite a mile away, further down in elevation and perhaps not as cool this evening because of it. Other hikers come in, no one has seen Hermes, so set up tent and take some leg rest time.

Hermes shows up at 3:30, apparently having fallen back to sleep after I left. Oh well, at least not injured.

Tomorrow we have a 19 mile day as we head toward Bland, VA for light resupply on Sunday. 

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