The only real goal for the day was to hit twelve miles or so and make it over Wayah Bald (get the title! It's funny and from a strange jokester guy we met named Dwight). We slept soundly until about 8 and were greeted by a sunny cold morning. Breakfast, coffee, the usual complete repacking of gear, and we were on our way.
We quickly ran into Papa Smurf and BG who were heading in the wrong direction. Papa Smurf said he had a stomach bug and they had some serious family crises to attend to so they had to head back to Franklin. We told them that now we both had trail names, Emily as Yeti and Tyler as Huggables, to which Tyler gratefully received a BG bug. We wished them a speedy recovery and best results for their family members. And we hope to see them both again!
Soon after, while we were taking a break, we met Skipper. He told us all about himself over the course of the next hour (yeah, there was a lot of conversation today, probably due to the weather). He's 55 and hiking with a slipped disk in his neck and back, nerve problems in his legs and arms, and a few other things we can't remember. He's been on the trail since March 22nd and had seen 41 people quit. He used to be a chemical specialist on SWAT, a detective, and narcotics officer. Doctors told him he should stay in bed and avoid walking unless it's to the car on account of his latest injuries even though last year he attempted the trail but quickly had to stop after tearing a number of ligaments in his hand. Now his whole town is following his progress and he is being interviewed by the paper there. He is definitely an inspiration to us.
We ran into some other familiar faces, who we've leapfrogged a few times but not shared too many conversations with including Flip, Marsha, Bluebird, Rafiki, and the duct tape saviors Tiger Lily and Prometheus.
It felt great hiking under the sun again and being able to eat lunch in the open air, put down our packs when we needed to, and taking off our shoes during breaks.
*Getting water from a stream
*a bird pooped on Emily
The uphill to Wayah Bald was tough, but nothing shocking. At the Top, we were told there were chemical toilets and trail magic! There were certainly toilets, but we saw no trail magic besides a strange, lonely tub of peanut butter.
The fire tower on Wayah Bald had some charred logs on the four corners that we soon found out were the remains of a beautiful wooden roof that were burned down, including much of the surrounding trees, the year before.
We met a guy named Jean Marc from Toulouse (Froggy) who was on his seventh day. What a monster. Also the guy Dwight who we'd been exchanging greetings with all day. Emily helped him with a photo (to supplement his goofy selfies) before we continued on to a stealth spot named only in AWOL 's guidebook as "trail intersects with old road. Trail turns east" at mile 123.2.