We woke up at 5 because roosters are horrible creatures. Having not grown up around many, we sort of thought they just cock-a-doodled right before the sunrise, but apparently they keep cock-a-doodling from 3 hours before sunrise until the sun is completely up. If we had stayed in the chicken coop, we probably would have lost hearing and control of our minds.
But in the rooster's defence, it was alright to get up a little extra early since we were shooting for another marathon day to get into Daleville early so we could zero the following day. Even more exciting, Joe was already planning to drive a bunch of packs to the Howard Johnson's in Daleville so we hopped on board. We would slack pack for the first time which means we would only be hiking with water and snacks! We packed Tyler's bag with nearly everything, then threw some snacks, the water filter, and first aid in Emily's empty bag. Tyler's bag was left to be transported, and we hit the road. Dean also threw his snacks and water in Em's bag (Dean tried to make a water bottle sash invention but it didn't work).
Happy Hour and P-Tang were the only ones starting with us at mile 702, the rest were heading to Daleville from 708. The two of them took off into the distance quickly. We caught them periodically throughout the day when they took breaks. We maintained a steady three miles per hour for the first ten miles. Slack packing didn't seem to allow us to move much faster, but every move just felt so easy. Our joints and feet thanked us for the first time in months.
Ten miles also marked our encounter with McAfee Knob, an iconic spot along the AT that every thru hiker needs to be photographed at apparently (some of them even in the nude). Emily allowed a rare picture of her to be taken there. It was around 11:30 at this point so we grabbed a quick lunch as well.
The day was sunny and getting to be hot so we were going through water pretty quickly. The three of us met up with Monty at the knob, who seemed a bit wiped out from Four Pines partying or was it because he lost sleep over losing at cribbage...? He decided to keep up with us as long as he could so he could get some miles in. Turned out he kept up with us for the rest of the day so our merry band of three became four. It should be noted that Monty, unlike everyone else that day, had his full pack and still kept up. Those youngins!
Several miles later we started going over ridge rocks making the trail similar to the dragons tooth. Going sans pack made this section much easier. The ridge rocks were followed by the Tinker Cliffs which offered some of the best views, and possibly finest camping (if you've got the water) that we had seen so far. Despite having still about ten miles to go, and the day not getting any longer, we had to take in some of the views but leave the camping spots behind.
We took another break near twenty miles at the last shelter before town. It may seem silly to take a break with only six miles left, but, the higher the miles, the harder additional miles seem to become. Six miles on fresh legs would be laughable, six miles after twenty sounded deadly. Especially when much of those six miles were large rocks. Even without packs our feet and bodies were hurting. Our joints were holding up, but nothing can stop feet punishment it seems. After about three, we ran out of water, which we thought we would be fine since we still had the "it's only six miles" mindset. The ridge walking and uphill were significantly draining and we started talking about all the drinks we would get when we got to town. Blue Raspberry slushie, Coke Slushie, Gatorade (any color except yellow), iced coffee, lemonade, beer. To pass the time, which didn't seem like it was moving anymore, we started playing a categories word game. It got us a bit closer, but not all the way. But as this is indeed being written, we did survive. A gas station a mere fifty feet off the trail, and fifty feet from Howard Johnson's, gave us the drinks we so craved. The four of us consumed two slushies, five electrolyte drinks, and a Gatorade in about six minutes.
We finally checked into the Howard Johnson's which may be the most hiker friendly chain hotel in existence. There is a professionally printed sign in the lobby that points out the hiker box. The lobby was still full of packs from slack packers even though we didn't arrive until 7. The thru hiker rate for four people in a room is only $50 a night. Yeah, that's 12.50 a person. Eat that hostels!
Monty, despite originally saying he would camp, decided to stay in the room as well. We dropped off our stuff, relaxed for a bit, and headed for food.
In the past, we would shower before hitting a restaurant, but food has been superseding hygiene lately. Sorry to anyone we have offended. We walked about a half mile to Three Little Pigs Bbq which also gives thru hikers free banana puddings. Their beer selection had several varieties of local beers, and the food was great, though took a bit too long to arrive given our extreme hunger.
Before eating, we had made some bold plans to hang with Happy Hour and P-Tang. After dinner, we realized none of us had the energy to do anything. Monty said he would drop by, but he was the first to fall asleep. The rest of us soon followed. Note, we are happy to say that all did shower before bed though.