Summary Thornton Gap 942 Elkwallow 950.6 Total miles: 8.6
We packed up our stuff and headed to a local cafe called Gathering Grounds to have breakfast, drink coffee, and for Emily to finish up some work and photo editing for the blog. We sat out on the back patio and the lovely Deanne took care of us for essentially the entire day. We got some eggs, toast, coffee, potatoes, and Tyler ordered some quiche with a grits crust (it was great). Afterwards, Deanne found us a table inside so that Emily could work and charge the phone. Tyler headed out to get shoes.
We decided that we couldn't wait for the Oboz so we asked Iain, the Oboz contact, to reroute them to Tyler's parents, and for now we would buy him a pair of new shoes and use the others later. Unfortunately, the outfitters didn't have Oboz, but Pittsburgh, a 2007 thru hiker, helped Tyler with some Solomans which felt great. He also talked a lot about his experience at Tyler's request. He warned about upcoming Rocksylvania, and suggested we try doing long days (22 mile days), take zeros at every town, and we could/would still escape PA in 2.5 weeks. He also shared some stories about hiking with his girlfriend. They didn't make it to the end together (that is as a couple) but did finish together. Tyler assured him that handling German bureaucracy as a couple was, so far, much worse than the AT. Tyler then shipped a few things in a box to Maine (including the old shoes for use in a future project) and headed back to the cafe.
We ordered three cookies, a crumb muffin, and a lemon scone as a breakfast dessert, and drank more coffee. Emily ended up with a bit more work than she had planned on, so then we ordered lunch. Tyler read nerd text books on his kindle and we passed the time like this, occasionally chatting with the lovely kitchen manager about the trip. At about 3:30, Emily was caught up. Pittsburgh had given Tyler a list of local shuttles. We called Ginny, who picked us up a few minutes later.
Ginny had moved to the area in 2003 to be closer to her daughter and currently, at the young age of 73 (which may have been a lie given her energy levels) worked as a hospice nurse. She also told us about her husband who had always wanted to hike the trail, but now at 75 and a CPAP machine, he probably would never be able to. Though it sounds like the two of them had done pretty much everything else life had to offer.
She would accept no payment for the shuttle and we got hiking at 4:30. The rocks from the day before abruptly ended and we were fairly certain we could easily get ten miles with no need to eat after eating all day. We weren't testing the shoes on tough terrain, but they felt great. Emily had to fiddle with her in soles and laces a fair amount, but managed to get them feeling right. We also didn't quite get our ten miles (though we physically could have). Instead, we camped just outside the parking lot (probably illegally) of the Elkwallow Wayside restaurant so we could sneak in for breakfast in the morning. We also discovered that the Waysides lock their bathrooms at night which disappointed Tyler's desire for a flush toilet and brushing teeth with a sink (a rare treat)
We set up a well hidden camp about ten yards off the parking lot, ate a lot of starburst minis, and headed to bed.