When we woke up, Dean has arrived with coffees for each of us from Hardee's down the street. Absolute super star. For the rest of breakfast it was fresh fruit (berries and bananas), juice, and whatever else from our food sacks. While Bambi worked on her resupply, we cleaned our thermarests, ponchos, mats, and bags from whatever mildew smell we could get in the last minute. The rain has done a number on us. The shoulder straps on our bags were really starting to smell pretty awful.
*Duck Fart & Bambi
When we finally left the motel parking lot (hanging out chatting with Patch, Duckfart, Red Eye, and Fireproof) it was noon. We made it about a quarter of a mile down the road and ended up in DQ for burgers and ice cream. We sort of all started accidentally walking towards it.
So, we tried again and got all the way to the trail head, at the last hundred yards, yelled at by Turbo who was passing in an Angel's Rest shuttle.The tramily, Turbo, Dean, Bambi, and us, was all back together.
We hiked one whole mile to the next road crossing. Despite being stuffed to popping, we couldn't say no to trail magic, so we ate again. The trail magic was provided by Max Factor and Regina. Max Factor did ask for payment which was to listen to his trail miracle story, which we will try to relate here:
Max Factor's son, Max, died on April 18, 2009. He then started to make plans for a thru hike in 2010. The very first day on the trail the winds and hail and blizzard conditions forced 37 people into a 12 man shelter on top of Springer Mountain. There he met Superman, a younger guy who had been having problems with drugs and other trouble for some time. They hiked together until Max Factor blew out his knee at Fontana Dam forcing him to stop hiking. He told Superman if he ever needed anything to just give him a shout. Near the halfway point, Superman called to say he was done with the trail. He needed a place to stay and went to live with Max Factor and his wife for a year or so in Charleston, West Virginia. They thought he might settle down there, but he met a girl in Florida while visiting family. So he decided he would move back to Florida, settle down, start a family. He always stayed in touch with Max Factor and named their first daughter after Max Factor's son Max. Max Factor had been doing trail magic ever since his hike. His telling of the story under beautiful skies on the grass was far more poetic than the poor retelling here though.
Eventually, we did finally get back to moving. We were planning 12 today, and by now it was 3:30. However, we wanted to do 20 the next day which was worrying Bambi so she made plans to slack pack 20 miles in what remained of the afternoon (she was hoping this would also mean she would get to spend some time with her friend Jellybean)
Despite some grumbling from all of us for pushing into the evening, we made it to Symms Gap, joined by Red Eye and Patch after we realized there was no camping at Symms Gap and we had to backtrack .2 miles.
At the campsite, in a meadow stop a ridge, despite the guidebook saying so, we found no water. Dean and Tyler spotted a small swampy spot earlier on the trail so they went to investigate and found that all of the swampy area dumped into a stream near the ridgeline. It smelled and looked okay, so we filtered and boiled it for dinner and drinking.
The night turned out to be spectacular. The sunset was an evolving play of reds and violets in the sky (and we really hadn't had too many sunsets) the clouds looked embossed on the sky. After the sun set we noticed fireflies in the trees. Our tents, made more comfortable by the soft ground on the ridge, seemed to be well positioned for a perfect night in the mountains.