We started our day with breakfast at the hotel. Frosty had scrambled eggs, and I had a cinnamon roll. Then we checked out and waited for our shuttle driver. This was a very interesting shuttle. Our shuttle driver was very social. He had many great stories and talked about his philosophies and beliefs that he was questioning and exploring.
A unique and amusing, and to some probably frightening, aspect of our shuttle ride was that our driver didn’t use his feet for the break/gas pedal. He controlled these with his cane. I could tell he was very experienced in this practice as we wound our way up the curvy forest service road on Whitetop Mountain. We did have one quick and startling stop as we rounded a corner and had to immediately stop for some road construction.
We were dropped at the trailhead off USFS 89 high up on Whitetop Mountain. We had a late start to our hiking day, after noon, due to the availability of the shuttle driver and the long shuttle involved.
There were a few viewpoints today in some mountain meadows, but we were in the woods most of the day. This was our first day of hiking during this trip without rain.
We met one hiker, Pink Panther, going SOBO (south). We would later find out that she had gotten turned around and thought that she was hiking north. We passed the half mile spur trail to the summit of Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest mountain. The summit was described in the Guthooks AT trail app as “densely wooded covered in moss and pine trees,” so we didn’t go up to the summit.
Our stopping point for the day was the Thomas Knob shelter. We reached it early. Our hiking day only brought us 6.6 trail miles. We wanted to take it easy getting back on trail. There were a couple of families vacationing together hanging out at the shelter. The two middle school aged boys stayed on the bottom floor of the shelter. The rest of their families tented nearby. There were many other hikers tenting all around the shelter. This area (along with Grayson Highlands) is a vacation hiking destination.
Frosty and I set up in the top floor of the shelter. The shelter didn’t fill up. It remained only the four of us staying in the shelter. The privy for this shelter was nice, large and airy. There’s a bear box here. I love the convenience of a bear box.
This shelter is at 5,412 feet of elevation. There are many places around the shelter to sit and enjoy the sweeping views of mountains and meadows.
We had Forever Young Mac and Cheese for supper, my favorite. Yum! The enclosed top floor of the shelter kept us warm during the chilly night.