Then I have to write a lot of words because it'll be a while before any pictures get uploaded. A few words can be spent on a couple notable spottings of fauna recently.
Firstly, I've seen quite a few deer now, there was a trio of deer that came by our tent city in the Smokies (a bevy?) and another that was on top of the mountain that I startled and it bounced off. Apart from the deer not a lot more mammals except for the smaller ones such as squirrels and mice.
Birdwise though I've come across a lot more species. Probably the most impressive sighting was of a Great Horned Owl during a misty wet day. It flew straight past me and initially I thought it was a Pheasant Coucal as it had such a large wingspan and similar colours but it nested on a tree in plain sight and rotated its head 120 degrees so that I could see its distinctive owl features.
Then there are the Grouse (maybe the Ruffed Grouse) which I haven't seen but have a distinctive mating call. It is a well paced almost vibrating bass noise that I kept wondering about every time I would hear it. Various explanations to the noise included a moonshine brewery backfiring, a diesel generator starting up and a hydro-electric dam turbine until someone said 'Oh thats just a Grouse"... try to describe that with a picture :/.
Then there was a sighting of a bald eagle here at the hostel this morning which unfortunately I missed by seconds although I did see a heron flying over the river. I also had a bit of an altercation with some geese that were along the bikepath into Erwin. There was goslings (baby geese) sitting on the path maybe enjoying the warmth and they were hesitant to move off the path so one of the parent geese reared up and started hissing at me whilst the other parent correld the goslings slowly back into the water.
There have been a lot of other little birds but I have no idea what they are and I'm still hanging out for my first sighting of a woodpecker because I hear them all the time but the noise echos through the hills so much that it's really hard to pinpoint an exact location.
As for news on the trail... I may have said this already but the trail works as a grapevine. It isn't a homogeneous progression of people from South to North. People take days off (zero days), they slackpack certain areas (get a shuttle from a hostel and then walk back into town with a daypack on), they skip sections etc.. and of course people love to gossip so a good story moves quickly up and down the trail. The latest story we heard was about 'Lazy Susan' who we'd met at Fontana Dam and had renamed 'Dexter' as there was something not quite right about him. Apparantly as the story goes he got drunk somehow (he's only 18 so underage in the states) and made threats to a girl which were obviously scary enough because she called the police onto him and they picked him up at gunpoint.
That'll have to do for now because I'm about to head off but I will probably have a lot of time on my hands soon as I'm meeting a friend in Damascus on the 12th so I might take a few days off as I'm way ahead of schedule for that one and do a big writeup of the topics that are floating around in my head.
Til then.. happy trails