I woke at 8:00 to Tandem saying “Buzz, you have a guest by your tent”. I slowly unzipped the tent and fly and was surprised to see a full grown doe just 10 feet from my tent. She hung around eating grass before slowly walking away.
We had slept in due to the long day before. We packed up and ate our breakfast in front of the shelter while talking about hikers behind and ahead of us. We also discussed the opportunity today to get lunch at the Big Meadows Wayside restaurant, seven miles away.
After breakfast, Tandem and I departed for what was a relatively easy-starting seven miles. Tandem and I passed Chuckles who kept up with Tandem to talk to her for as long as she physically could. There was a stretch of the trail for about a half mile that was flat and grass lined and created a ribbon of trail going straight out as far as the eye could see.
Before we reached the Big Meadows, we passed a large cemetery. Many of the names on the headstones were Meadows.
At the Big Meadows Wayside, we had a cheeseburger, fries, soda, and black raspberry ice cream on a cone. We spent about an hour there talking and charging our phones as well as sending blog updates. We left about 13:30 and hiked nine more miles to the Skyland Resort and Restaurant. I fell behind Tandem, Mio, and Johnny Utah due to how the downhills affected the sore front ball of my left foot. The first thing I saw when I arrived at Skyland was the horses.
I got to the restaurant and changed into my Crocs. The hiking trio was at the bar watching a trash HLN TV show. Tandem and I had wings, and I had a beer. We had a good time there and answered a lot of tourist’s questions about through hiking the AT.
By the time we put packs back on, it was 19:30. We knew that we needed to find a campsite soon out of Skyland. We shot for the Pinnacles Picnic area four miles away due to the water and bathroom facilities, but when we got a half mile from it, we saw a “No Camping For Next Mile” — and a bear. As we approached the picnic area around 20:45, we were in time for a sunset shot.
We filled up with water in the picnic area and I left my purple Philmont Nalgene bottle just sitting there, as I discovered later. It was really getting dark as we climbed the Pinnacle Mountain, and we night hiked with headlamps on down the backside of the mountain to the Byrds Nest #3 hut. Everyone there was already laying down, and most were asleep.
We quietly set up our tents and hammocks by headlamp and hung our food bags on the bear bag pole, which was hard to keep quiet. We were all asleep in minutes, after our 13 hour, two meal break, and 22.4 mile day.