Yesterday evening we had a little cell reception and found out that Bambi's slack pack attempt to catch up to us didn't go so well. We made plans to meet her and Spike for lunch today at 1 at a restaurant called The Barn which the trail passes right by. However, when we woke up, we were in a cloud or maybe it was raining or both and so we didn't leave camp until 11 and making 6.6 miles on a time crunch seemed difficult. Especially since we needed water and right before that water Tyler wiped out and scraped up his shin real nice. Nothing drastic though, just swiped enough that maybe he could make up a bear fight story, and shallow enough that it didn't bleed much. It was also irrelevant to the disgusting squishy shoes and cold wet shorts, shirt, socks, ponchos, skin and eyes we were dealing with. After four or so miles we entered some beautiful (at least they probably would have been if we weren't trying to haul), fields. Since Emily recently had a series of run ins with chiggers, we stopped every quarter of a mile to wipe our legs down to avoid the bites (Thanks Piper Robbins). Are they still called bites if they burrow their entire body into your leg?
After passing over a rail road, a first for our AT adventure, we got to The Barn (which strangely enough seemed to actually have no name other than Restaurant family style dining) at around 1:30. Bambi told us about her harrowing experience slack packing to try and catch up. She was making about 3.5 miles an hour until she hit Buzzard Rock (the first half after Damascus) when lightning and hail started bombarding her. She assumed lightning position after she saw a strike blow up the ground near her, but then had to run for it when the hail approached nickel size. She managed to get in touch with Spike so he could pick her up, and that was that. Now shes going to start hiking with us and return to do the Damascus to Atkins section later.
Lunch at the Barn was solid. They served burgers in 5 oz, 8 oz, and 16oz portions. Only Spike, the one no longer hiking, braved the 16 oz. We wanted dessert, but a huge group of Mennonites showed up and overwhelmed the sole server in the restaurant. We made our bittersweet departure from the honorable Spike in the midst of a bit of sun. It, of course, was a bittersweet goodbye. It sounded like he had thought about it a lot, but he will be missed. Now, though, we talk about him like he's dead. Oh well.
While at lunch, Bambi also booked beds for us at the Quarter Way Inn which sounded like a sweet place to stop. We heard they had a amazing breakfasts and that Tina (trail name Chunky, a sobo in 2009) is awesome. The trail heading out was lovely. It was made more delightful by the fact that the sun had finally come out and our shoes were returning to their normal colors. We crossed a beautiful stream, walked through meadows, butterflies and birds guided our way and we hit 25% marker on the trail. Fairy tale stuff.
About three miles from the hostel we ran into Duckfart, who we had last seen the day before we headed into Erwin for our long rest. He had, in his words, perhaps too much fun in Damascus for trail days, but it did enable us to catch up. We continued on and called Tina to see if she would pick us up from the trail head since the hostel was .8 miles off the trail and seventeen miles is enough for us. She doesn't normally, but she said she would grab us. And this began our stay at the imacculate The Quarter Way Inn.
We first knew it would be a great stay because when Tina arrived to grab us a medium sized dog leapt from the car. Hazelnut, or Haselnuss as we liked to call her, was an adorable, but somewhat nervous dog that we worked to snuggle all day (and some of the next) The hostel is located in this beautiful mansion with a columned porch on a huge plot of land in the rolling hills on the edge of the national forest. The inside was super comfortable and spacious. There was a dining room, a living room, and a tv room with a television vcr (yes, truly a vcr) with a large VHS collection. The vcr detail may make it sound dusty or outdated, but it was actual just a cute touch.
After eating some cous cous and bacon bits with Bambi (the other five hikers, Spitfire, Blue Hat, Torch, Medicine Man, and Uncle Puck had recently gone to bed). Tina came in to prep breakfast for the next morning while we were eating ice cream. We got a chance to chat with her for a while about her sobo (-5 in the smokies, and pretty sure the only reason her and her hiking companion lived was some kind people at Newfound Gap). She has traveled a lot for Habitat for Humanity as a project manager for (we believe, we may be mistaken on that title, but she does have a masters in nonprofit management). In the off season, she still gets to manage projects from time to time if they have need (a recent one was to Nepal). Her husband, Brett, just got tenured as a Civil Engineering professor in Charlotte (they split their time between the two places). The conversation quickly turned too nerdy for everyone in the room as Tyler started quizzing Tina as to some of Brett's electronic projects around the house.
Once Tina remembered again that she had to start prepping for breakfast, so off she went. We went to the tv room to watch Jurassic Park on VHS for the novelty, finally got our clothes into the laundry bin, and headed to bed.
Side note: Tina also offers loaner clothes so you can literally wash everything you own. Tyler's outfit was pretty fantastic. There is picture evidence.