Way back on 4/1, I was playing catchup on the trail, chasing Tarzan after he had taken off to meet up with his cousin Justin. Plan was for those two, plus Brian (who was off spending a few days with his wife Ann), to meet around I-40 just before Standing Bear Hostel. I was about 3 miles out of the hostel when I left Davenport shelter that morning, after a night full of mice. I'd heard of mice being a problem in the shelters, but this was my first experience. I woke up at some early hour of the morning when I heard some scurrying, turned on my headlamp, and I kid you not, saw a mouse coming out of a crack in the wall with another mouse in its mouth!!! What the heck??? Glad to wake up and get out of there!
After about 2 miles, Smilin Joe and I came across 2 campers near a creek. Muddy Waters and Steelhead! The old farts from upstate NY! Happy to run into these guys again! They said Tarzan and Brian (trail name Flosser), were only about 20 min ahead. They told me the guys didn't want to won't around for a stinkin, bum hiker. Haha, these guys kill me. They remind me of the two old guys in Grumpy Old Men to an extent.
Caught up to Tarzan, Flosser, and Justin just past the I-40 underpass, on the upward climb. Some good, cold grapes left for hikers at the side of the trail. Mmm. We all hiked together to the Standing Bear Hostel. Kind of a weird place. Showed up and told the owner (Curtis) that we were stopping in to pick up food resupplies that had been sent there. He said they don't allow hikers in for pickups til 11am (it was about 9:30 or so). Quickly we were reminded it was April Fools Day. Ahh hah...ok, give us our boxes.
We were all set to head out when I remembered that I was staying behind. A good friend, Rachel, from Georgia that I met about 7 years ago while we were both doing internships in Indiana, and her husband Jason were going to be driving over from Chattanooga, TN to come visit! I hung out at the hostel and talked to some of the other hikers there.
Rachel and Jason showed up around 1pm and we headed to lunch. Sat at a cool restaurant along the river called Bean Trees. Food and sweet tea tasted great, but the service was terrible. Upside of the meal taking a long time is that we got to spend that time talking and catching up. It was great to see a good friend again and finally meet her husband, and get to catch up with both of them. I took them back up to the hostel to show them what it was like. I think they may have been creeped out by the owner and some of his henchmen. (don't worry, I was too). We waited for a quick rain to pass, then they dropped me off at the trail to send me off. They loaded me up with candy, fruit, and Big River Pilsner beer! Jason knows the guys that brew the beer and they just started putting it in cans (by hand!), so it was cool to have that beer from Chattanooga!
I hit the trail again around 5pm and busted out about 6 or 7 miles, all of which were uphill, but my spirits were high after seeing these friends, and I trucked right along! Passed up Froot Loop, Maine-iac, and Blue who were about 2 miles in along a creek at a great looking camp spot. Not sure if they saw me but I kept going. Passed up Hat and Bogey who were setting up camp. Bogey mentioned there was a shelter about a mile up the trail. After a short break with them, I headed on. Passed over Snowbird Mtn as the sun began to set, then further and further, seeing no shelter. Hiked until about 8pm when I finally came across other people. I hiked 0.2 more down to Groundhog shelter, set up my tent, and called it a night.
What a great day!
Rachel and Jason - thanks again so much for being super flexible with my schedule, making the drive, treating me to lunch, all the goodies, and more than anything, boosting my spirits! It was truly great to see you! I hope to make it to Chattanooga some day in the near future to visit!