Up at 6:45 am and on the trail quickly after oatmeal for breakfast. I gained elevation moderately thru thickets of rhododendron and mountain laurel (no flowers). I got water from a stream and met another hiker, Wally, with whom I had dinner yesterday. We walked and chatted for 2 miles to Betty Creek Gap. Wally stopped and I continued on. I passed on taking the steep trail to the Mt. Albert fire tower. I don't need more steep climbs. This morning, the birds have been silent for no reason I can tell. Usually the birds sing loudly most of the day. Past the fire tower detour, the AT lost elevation slowly for 6 miles to Rock Gap shelter where I saw a single hiker. Up again, but not steeply, to a ridge from which I could see Franklin, NC in the valley far below. I called Mom to let her know that all was well but she was out. Down to Winding Stair Gap and US Highway 64. Two women offered me a ride to Franklin, an offer that most hikers would have quickly accepted. But, I got a liter of water from a piped spring and headed uphill. A 4.6 mile climb that gained about 1,300 vertical feet brought me to Siler Bald and a campsite. The bald has been cleared of trees on its western side where I'm camped. Many of the balds have been taken over by forest in the past century. Today's miles - 20.5. Total miles - 114.4.