Today I hiked from my campsite near Buzzard Rock to Thomas Knob Shelter, a distance of 6.3 miles. A heavy rain storm came through last night and soaked a lot of my gear. The rain also blew in through the mesh venting of my tent and flooded the back section. I didn’t get wet, but with the tent soaking wet it was hard to pack up. I’ll need to air it out or it will start to smell too.

The hiking now is definitely easier than it was yesterday. Climbing Buzzard Rock was definitely the harder part. Whereas yesterday was a two thousand foot climb, today was about a thousand, and the trail was graded a lot more easily as well.

I’ve noticed that the back of my pack is very wet, even after the rest of my equipment is dried out. I’m hoping this is a side effect of sweat and not a leak in my water reservoir. I do not notice that the water bladder seems like it’s losing anything, so I’ll keep an eye on it to figure out what to do.

I’ve taken stock of my food and if I can manage 12 miles a day for the next few days, I’ll just barely have enough food. The guide says there’s a camp store by the entrance to the Grayson Highlands State Park, but several south bound hikers I’ve spoken to did not see it. If I can find the store, I’ll pick up a few items just to be safe. If not I should still be ok

I did have a scary moment coming through today. The Trail crosses a large pasture, which the forest service leases out for cow grazing. We’ve crossed areas like this before, so I didn’t really think anything of it. Usually the cows just look at me disinterestedly and I have to be careful not to step in their poop. However, this time as I entered the area, one cow seemed to be paying more attention to me. At first I thought maybe it was just interested in some food, it’s always possible passing hikers have given bites of candy or trail mix to the cows out of pure interest. However, the cow started shaking it head and stamping its foot. At this point, I was becoming more wary and thankfully was on my guard because the next action was a false charge. I ducked to the side and unfortunately did not have the presence of mind to shout “torro” while doing so. I looked up and noticed several calves along the trail in the direction I had been heading. I figured that either the cow was especially protective with the calves nearby, hikers had previously harassed the cows, (some idiot idea of “cow tipping” which I wouldn’t put past some of the people I’ve met out here comes to mind) or some combination of both. As it was, I went off the Trail to bear a wide path around the herd and avoided any further confrontation.
I stopped early tonight so that I could stay in a shelter. My hope was that I’d be able to let my gear dry out and get some writing caught up, but rain came through in patches in the afternoon and evening to make that difficult. I had also intended to slack pack (hike without my full pack on) back to the peak of Mt Rodgers, the highest point in Virginia, only about three quarters of a mile from the shelter. But I found out that the peak was covered with trees so there was no view, and with rain coming in I abandoned that idea. Besides, I was honestly too tired and sore to want to.

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