Ralph makes a killer breakfast too. Tons of coffee, pancakes (plain and strawberry with extra strawberries and whipped cream if desired), parfait with bananas and strawberries, a boat worth of bacon. We will most likely be dreaming of that parfait for weeks to come. Afterwards, we packed up and drank a bunch more mint cantaloupe water. Time for final errands. Somehow, we either lost a pair of Emily's socks, or the laundry ate them the previous day. So we headed to the outfitters for socks, a pair of shorts (poor Emily has been stuck in pants all this time), and another new Sawyer bag as we blew up our third one. Maybe Tyler should be more gentle with the filtering, but he has no patience. We also headed to the post office to pick up a mail from the indomitable Maggie Haaland, as well as ship things home. Emily was shipping the last of her Winter gear, braces and even those new section hikers we picked up, Mary and Bruce, wanted to ship a down jacket home.
On the way out of town, which is right along the AT, we stopped for coffee and cake at Mojos and said hello to Eulalia and Target again. They seem to be moseying pretty close to the best of our drum. We actually saw them the day before and almost didn't recognize them all cleaned up not carrying their backpbackpacks. We also bought some slices of cake at Mojos, lemon poppy and dark chocolate. This made Mary jealous and we assured her that she would regret it in about twelve hours if she did not get a slice now. She listened to our sage advice. Soon after, somewhere around 11:30 by this point, we finally hit the road. We walked along a literal road that was a flat gravel path for a couple miles to lure Mary and Bruce into a false sense of security, then we entered the great green beyond and started going up. It seemed that the two of them had done their homework! We could hardly keep up with them on the flats and downhill. The uphills, slowed them down a bit, backpack weight is to blame but we still were making excellent time.
At one point, we ran into Jeff, a Brazillian guy we had seen off and on ever since Greasy Creek Friendly. Unfortunately, his phone had fallen from his hip pocket while fording a river up ahead. He was heading back to sort it out. However, this gave us pause. We weren't aware of fording any rivers for quite some time. Soon, we discovered the issue. Apparently a bridge across a river had washed out and the AT was detoured. The signs were not incredibly clear, but it seemed that Jeff had misinterpreted, and tried to ford the river where the bridge had been washed away. We took the detour along the Virginia Creeper Trail for about a quarter mile, and never had any issues. Bummer Jeff. If Jeff is not your trail name though, this incident will surely get you one.
We stopped off at Saunders Shelter to get water. There we officially met some guys that looked quite familiar. Two of them run a YouTube channel called yay adventure (at least partly filmed by a go pro clipped to his trekking pole). The are Thunder Turtle and Caboose. Their other tramily buddies who have "just" been together since Neels Gap (mile 34 or so) are Xavier and Mama Mal. They started March 25th so it's no wonder they looked so familiar! After getting water from the arduous half mile trek to and then passed the shelter, we went on a bit more, to mile 481, there was a large sickly looking, but somehow pretty stagnant pond. There was a whole symphony of frogs playing for us. It was our first night of family camping! But sadly, no fire ring yet. Bruce and Mary set up their two person Big Agnes tent (tres sexy) and made their Mountain House dinner. They shared one of the two serving bags which is usually considered a one serving or half serving to the thru hikers. We also made some white pine needle tea for Mary, which she seemed to enjoy. At around 8:30, Monty also arrived to everyone's delight, so it was like the porch had moved to the woods. Jose was expected but, sadly, didn't show. We all headed to bed after drinking a bit of some delicious orange energy drink Bruce had picked up. Gotta recover those electrolytes! It was 9, and the new hikers were fully wiped after their first day out and a tough 11 into the very not flat Virginia woods.