After a couple of miles, we came upon some men camping together. Swamprat got to them first, and began visiting. There is something that thru-hikers do called "Yogi-ing", named after Yogi Bear - remember how he always got food out of the campers? Some thru-hikers are very good at getting food out of people, and Swamprat recently discovered that he has a knack for this. He had walked up, started visiting with these folks, let it be known that he had been hiking the AT for 6 weeks, and still had 1700 miles to go, and before you know it, these campers are offering him fresh baked apple cobbler that they have just baked in their huge dutch oven! Luckily, we are included in his group, and so we are all treated to cobbler (bad time for me to be gluten-intolerant), and they continue to offer drinks, coffee, beer, pretty much whatever they have left over, because they are packing up and heading home after a weekend campout. At first, I thought Swamprat had stumbled across Trail Magic, but then learned that he had sort of finessed his way into this situation. I ended up with a big ziploc bag of rocky road chocolate bars. Not too shabby.
Probably just 2 miles later, we came to a road crossing, and once again, Swamprat started visiting with this young couple before we ever came out of the woods, and by the time we reached him, the young man, named Sean, asked me if I wanted a banana or a drink. I said yes to both. He and his girlfriend, Kat, had been camping for the weekend, but were just about to head out, and so ended up giving us cold drinks, apples, and bananas! Yogi strikes again!
After this second unexpected morning snack, we hiked on. Before long, we met a thru-hiker named Bamboo Bob, who was thru-hiking for his third time. He looked to be in his late-sixties. We also came across two brothers named GQ and Maxus, both in their twenties. Swamprat had camped with them early on, but we had not. While we were taking a break with them, we were surprised when Steamroller and Craftsman came stumbling out of the nearby shelter. They said they had been taking a nap. (Remember our AT troublemakers?) We had not seen them since before Roan Mountain, and I would have bed money, that we would not see them again. But here they were, minus Turtle. They said Turtle was a day ahead of them. Craftsman was hiking with a huge hatchet hanging from his belt. Steamroller was still hiking in a long kilt. Pretty humorous image, really. I promise to take a picture next time. They told us they had been bushwacking again, and this time ended up going through a cave, and cross a railroad tressle 50 feet in the air, and had to dangle from a rope. Really? Do we look this gullible? They hiked on ahead of us, and we told them we'd see them up the trail.
That evening we ended up catching up to GQ and his brother, and camping with them. They already had a nice fire going when we arrived. When they saw us, they said, 'Did you guys see the bear?" We told them we had not. They told us that right after they left us, they crossed the next ridge, and there had been a bear sitting up in the woods about 50 yards off of the trail. The bear had just sat and watched them as they passed. I figure I'm probably passing a lot of bears and next seeing them, because I'm always watching where I put my feet! I only manage to trip about 20 times a day, it seems like! Maxus and GQ had been laid up in Damascus for 5 days while waiting for Maxus to recover from a stomachbug. They finally went to a doctor and got medication. He said he had been given an antibiotic, and was feeling better.
That night, the brothers took turns playing their ukele and singing a bit around the fire. They both played guitar, and after starting the hike, had asked their dad to order them a ukele, because they could carry that easily. They had looked up chords on line, and had been practicing it at night. It was actually really nice to listen to around camp.
That night, the temperature was the warmest yet at night. The sleeping bags were just too much, and we ended up opening up the rain fly, to get a breeze. We are going to have to pick up a fleece blanket soon to use at night.
(Camped at Dickey Gap, mile 516.1)