Light rain fell last night, but the sky dawned clear when I awoke. The Appalachian Trail descended for 6 miles to a paved road with one hostel in either direction. For a mile I followed Laurel Fork to a scenic waterfall as shown in the photo. The AT ran along the river for a mile, then headed uphill over Pond Mountain, a 1700-foot climb. I ate lunch at a spring near the summit. Then a long descent to US Highway 321 and in a mile to Lake Watauga an impoundment. I washed my feet in the lake then walked around the lake past the closed Watauga shelter (bear problems). I crossed the dam where I met Gemini and Flow, then headed up a 1900-foot climb. My intention was the Vandeventer shelter 5 miles distant. Gemini and Flow caught up and we chatted as we walked for an hour. They stopped while I continued. I noticed a few mountain laurel shrubs flowering. As usual, the last few miles of the day seemed to take forever but eventually I arrived at the shelter to find 6 hikers already there. On the climb, a thunderstorm rolled in and rained for 45 minutes. I got the last bed space in the shelter and cooked dinner. I wrote in my journal while enjoying the grand view from behind the shelter. Today's miles - 22.1. Total miles - 435.9.