Everyone finally actually got up early this morning and we were hiking by 8:30. While packing up, we saw a familiar, lovely face. Lee dropped by! Funky Stuff said he was around after taking a few days in Damascus. He was now outfitted in new shoes and a fancy new trail name: Road Warrior. We still vote for Slaunchways, but it's not nearly as badass. Road Warrior comes from the excessive driving he used to do for work, 500 to 1000 miles a week. He'll be speeding passed us for now, but we'll catch him after resupply! We hadn't seen him since crossing mile 300.
Down the trail, we met Papa Bean, of the Papa Bean Jellybean (father daughter) combo we had heard about. Jellybean wasn't around (sounds like she was sleeping in prep for trail days?) He was also headed to Dickey Gap to catch a ride.
We passed the Comer Falls, they were nice but, and this will certainly sound horrible, not nearly as breathtaking as Laurel or Jones Falls. We moved on quickly and made it to Dickey Gap by 11 or so. The parents were really putting the pedal to the metal this morning.
We made a hitch hiking sign out of a map of Damascus that said, AT Thru, Marion (smiley face). The third or fourth car pulled over into the turn off for Huricane Campground, and our thirty minute ride with Matthew began.
We've met some amazing and friendly people on trail; Matthew was at the tippy top of the nice dude pyramid. He works for a company called Wilderness Trails which takes kids from ages 12-18 out on up to four day backpacking excursions in the summer. In the spring and fall they do work with the disenfranchised in the cities that also revolves around backpacking and camping. It had church affiliations, but we are not super sure if the company only works with church groups. It begs more research. Matthew, with all his sirs and ma'ams and overall positivity, doesn't seem like anyone that would ever turn anyone away. He drove us the 20-25 miles probably completely out of his way to the Econolodge in Marion.
The town was pretty quiet on the hiker front, as most of them have flocked to trail days so we easily got rooms. Mary was talking about craving, perhaps for the first time ever, a bucket of KFC. Welcome to the hiker life Mary from Maine! We threw our stuff around the room, got a laundry bag together, showered, and tried to figure out our broken Kindle warranty business. Because we bought it while we were in Germany (through amazon.de) getting warranty service is going to be complicated. The saga will continue.
Everyone was about to lose their minds from hunger so we made our way towards the line of strip malls common to the outskirts of the towns we end up in. Tyler is an Arby's fiend and, at long last, he got his wish and we demolished an immense Arby's feast.
We also had, seemingly for the first time ever, amazing cell reception. We got a call from Spike and Bambi saying they got a hotel in nearby Abington and were going to rent a car. They were coming to visit us! Righteous!
Marion has some sweet transportation options. During the week there is a shuttle that will pick you up and bring you anywhere in town for fifty cents a person (until 6pm) and a cab company that will drive anywhere in the city for four bucks flat (until midnight). We called up the shuttle, since it had started pouring rain and the clouds decided to stick around. We all got on, Tyler and Bruce got dropped off at the laundromat. Emily and Mary went back to the hotel.
Tyler and Bruce enjoyed a Natty Ice at the laundromat, like true hiker trash. Bruce also investigated the nearby Enterprise to see if they could rent a car to get back to Charlotte the next day. Since they are closed on Saturday, and had no cars in the lot, it ended up being quite the fiasco so despite Mary's stubbornness and resilience, the rental did not work out.
After laundry, Tyler picked up a couple of cheesy gordita crunches from Taco Bell (which is Emily's favorite thing). We hung around the hotel, moving as little as possible, until Spike and Bambi showed up around 6. Hungry again, we headed to the Mexican restaurant, Mi Puerto, a block or so down the street. It was popping. There was fun all around. Our waitress was adorable and hilarious. Afterwards, Mary and Bruce, beat from the mileage (and perhaps trying to give us trail buddy time or something) turned in.
Spike and Bambi hung around until 11. They told us about saving a hiker from falling into a ravine. Rather than relaxing or thanking them afterwards, he just said "Wanna smoke a Doobie! " They hope he is still alive. We also learned, to our great sadness, that Spike is done with the trail. He's gotten what he needs from it. He's going to hang around for a bit visting friends, but then head back to Nashville to get his things from Greg, then up to Masachusetts to, most likely, await a new Afganistan security detail assignment. Bambi will be losing her long time trail companion. While Spike is around, she's going to slack pack and try and catch up to us. We are at 518 and they are at 480, so hopefully it won't take too long. We must reiterate, though we understand, we are beyond bummed to be losing one of our closest buddies on the trail. Hopefully after he gets sick of home, he will meet up with us for some hiking as we get further north. Andrew Spikington, may you, as the Anklosaurus from the Land Before Time, find a home and eat all the tastiest leaves.