Elkwallow Wayside 950.6
Random Campsite 969.4
We were ready quickly this morning since we didn't have to eat breakfast. Our cheeky campsite was indeed not discovered (or ignored) and we walked over to the Wayside fifteen minutes before it opened (at nine). A couple hiking the AT through SNP showed up as well. We've seen them a few times and have chit chatted a bit about miles, weather, etc. They are from New Jersey (originally from Israel, they have subtle accents). Their last day was fast approaching. A few thru hikers we had seen recently also arrived. Since it was the third time we've seen them, we had to introduce ourselves and so it was that we met Wild Card, Atlas, and Lotus. We all got our various breakfasts, which were probably only good because of our hunger. We even learned, to our... expectation, the Shenandoah special blackberry ice cream is really just a Sysco product. As is everything made in the Wayside kitchens. The milkshakes at least take a few ingredients to get right though. We made it back to the trail at 10:30 after the usual ritual foot taping, water refilling, and the unusual rare treat of running water for tooth brushing.
The trail remained fairly flat and without rocks. Today we would be crossing out of SNP and, other than the day heading out of Rock Spring Shelter, there had not been a smoother section of trail. Still, new gear of any sort can always cause problems and Emily's new flamingo feet were not wearing quite right yet so there was a lot of foot maintenance throughout the day. Any hot spot, if ignored, will absolutely become a blister after just a few miles.
We ate lunch from a gorgeous cliff on Mount Marshall. Non threatening clouds were moving in, but we were thankful since, for the first time in a while, we were not sweating while standing still.
A few miles after lunch, and after helping a couple and their toddler take a picture (and answering some questions about our time on the trail) we filled up on water.
Sadly, our late start this morning (since we needed to indulge in that breakfast) was starting to catch up to us. We had wanted to go 20 today but it would be pretty impossible to make it since our top maintainable speed (that is for a couple of hours) is about 3 mph. We have a pretty strict 7 o'clock cut off, since that's when we start getting grumpy and don't have enough time to relax in the evening, and we would have to do 7 miles in two hours. Just wouldn't happen.
We did manage to get nearly six in though. We left SNP chatting with Atlas, who told us about the origin of his name. An older lady was complaining back at Albert Mountain (mile 100) about not expecting the climb to be so difficult, so Atlas helped her by carrying her pack, in addition to his own of course, up the mountain. Also, we learned he just finished his master's at UFL in accounting and has a job lined up to start in January, so until then, his time is free. The company he's going to work for is apparently responsible for the La La Land / Moonlight Oscars snafu this year.
He headed to the first shelter north of the park. We refilled our water and headed a couple miles further where we eventually found a campsite that was essentially in someone's backyard. The trail had a scary chain link fence on in one side, and a series of fenced in houses on the other. It was a weird spot but we found a large area of mowed grass that looked purposefully done to be welcoming. Wild card also joined us. We learned a bit about our new neighbor as well. He was six years in the navy, two years in training and four working as an electrician on nuclear submarines, but now he's out and not certain what he wants to do besides finish the trail.
We ate some cous cous, which is one of our favorite dinners, watched the sunset, exchanged foot massages, which is not as much kind and loving as it is necessary (we thoroughly sanitize beforehand), and did our nightly tick check. Finally, after a long day, slightly disappointed we didn't manage more miles, we headed to bed, hoping the dogs barking at the shadows of thru hikers passing by wouldn't keep us awake.