The morning brought some news as to why the previous days had been a bit off. The drink powder Bruce had brought had a small warning on the back. Namely, a warning that the drink powder contained a large amount of caffeine, so drink responsibly. Having not read this, and having been consuming the stuff by the quart, all the Hutchisons (Emily didn't care for the taste so she wasn't drinking it) were a bit on edge. Mary was a hiking machine with a mantra of let's not take breaks. She wanted to continuously hike in order to get to 20 miles. Meanwhile Bruce's heart was pounding so much we were all concerned. He needed more breaks than Mary would allow so we were all very much hiking our own hikes. Tyler was an anxiety case needing to speed ahead, break, speed ahead, drink juice, speed ahead, break. Emily didn't exactly know what was happening but as she witnessed the madness she knew never to let the Hutchisons consume liters upon liters of caffeine ever again.
We wanted to make it to Dickey Gap by May 19th for the Parental extraction and resupply. That means 27 miles. We aimed for 12 today along the ridge. Without caffeinated energy drinks making everyone crazy, we did great!
We found ponies! We met a couple of section hikers (both just after college graduation, one headed to Americorp, one headed to a power EE job), who said we just missed four ponies. In fact, the six of us came upon them just around the corner. We had kind of thought the ponies would be hard to find, but this was to start many pony sightings. There were four here, and they seemed to not care that we were there. We had heard they might try and steal our out bags as we walked by, but, no, no cares.
We carried on and the beautiful sights across the open fields of the Grayson Highlands continued. Thomas Knob Shelter is on one of those fields. The campsites afterwards looked like they were on manicured lawns. We also ran into Leap Frog, Extra Mile, Dean, and his girlfriend Olivia at the shelter and 2 hiking poodles named Sugar and Sookie. We didn't officially meet their parents so we don't know their names. They went up to about mile 544 and were hiking back to trail days, so no! Perhaps we can catch them again while they enjoy trail days.
After the shelter we made it to the highlands proper and we hit 500 miles! It looked just out of Scotland or treeline Katahdin. It was incredible. Especially considering the continued pony sightings, the baby pony, and the longhorns scattered in the highlands. It slowed us down a lot.
Still, we made it through Fat Man's Squeeze, a small cave that Tyler was continually excited for, to just after Wise Shelter where we found perhaps the most idyllic campsite at Big Wilson Creek that has ever been camped. Seriously. Despite the impending clouds, it was perfect. Plus, the white noise promised, finally, a night of sleep for the parents.