While we were waiting on Swamprat to return (empty-handed, eventually), we ran into a guy who asked if we were thru-hiking, and when we told him yes, he asked if we knew Santa and Gnome. Turns out, he was Gnome's cousin, and was hoping to run into them. Wanted to be sure they knew that they had a new grandbaby. We told him we would make sure they got the message, but knew they were a day or so behind us now, as they had gotten off the trail for a break.
We spent the morning hiking at a really great pace, because we had hoped to get to a wayside for supper that was 18 miles away. Once again, we had a cool, windy day. We all started out in long sleeves, which is pretty incredible for June. The trail followed the edge of a trail for a ways, affording us great views to the west, once again. This was obviously a popular hike, and we met many dayhikers going in the opposite direction. Several times during the morning, we came upon deer on the trail, and you could tell they were not scared of hikers.
We slipped into a shelter for a quick lunch break, and met Philly Steve, a young hiker, who had just taken a nasty fall, and hurt his wrist. He was trying to determine if he had broken it or not. I got the feeling he wasn't convinced it was broken. We offered him some medication, but he seemed to have things taken care of, so we headed out once again.
We headed out for the wayside once again, and ended up with a really nice trail (which means, not steep or rocky), and made great time, getting there by 3:35. Along the way, we met a group of Asian tourists, obviously being led by a tour guide. As I passed, he asked me something, but the only word I understood was "thru." I told him that yes, I was a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail, and he turned to his group and got very excited, as he explained to them what I was doing. After he explained, they all looked at me, and in unison, said, "really????" I said, "yes," and they all applauded. It was really funny. I felt like curtsying, but didn't.
Sadly, when we reached the wayside, the grill was broken! Catastrophe! (Okay, perhaps a big dramatic, but there went my cheeseburger dream). They could not even cook french fries. We were left to scavaging around the store, which now offered nothing more than convenience store fare. I tried not to cry. I ended up with a yogurt, a banana, a bag of chips, and a Coke. The boys have become addicted to the Spunkmeyers chocolate chip muffins, and pretty much emptied the shelf while we were there. While I was in the store, a lady ran in saying that a bear had just run across the meadow.
As we were approaching the wayside, Keith had gotten ahead of me (this sometimes happens when one of us needs to take potty breaks), and wouldn't you know, it, a bear crossed the trail right in front of him! I totally missed it. At the wayside, we visited with some cyclists, one who lived in DC and would come to the park to ride several hundred miles over the course of a few days; the other was from Denmark, and was riding across America, having started on the beach on the east coast, and he would end up in Oregon, west of Portland. He had a lot of questions about our hike. We thought it was interesting that he was carrying no phone whatsoever, wanting to totally "unplug" for awhile. He was also camping along the way, and asked us a lot of questions about that.
After we left the wayside, stuffed with pretty much junk food, we ended up hiking another 4.1 miles before we found a great campsite on a beautiful overlook called Little Hogback Mountain. Just before the campsite, we had gotten spread out again, and Keith and I noticed at one point it would have been easy to miss the trail where it forked off. Sure enough, Swamprat missed it when he got to that point, and was on it a short while before backtracking. During that short stretch, however, he saw a bear! Once again, I missed it. This ended up being our longest day yet, 22.4 miles.