On waking up, I hauled ass to the Big Meadows Wayside, anticipating a late morning/early afternoon pick up from my friend Elise who was coming to pick me up. I ran into a bunch more deer today, nonchalant and friendly as usual.

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On arriving at the Wayside, I ran into Wolverine and Happy Camper, who had somehow passed me at some point either early this morning or last night. We sat out on the lawn in front of the Wayside like a bunch of hippies, just hanging out waiting to see who else among our forest friends would show up. Dosu rolled up a while later and bought a bucket of fried chicken from the Wayside.

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When he returned with his bounty of golden meat, he had reeled in an attractive blond muggle, who walked up to us smiling in street clothes. That was a first since we had been in the park, I thought to myself. How in the world did he get one of those tourists to come over and talk to us?

“She thru-hiked last year and is headed to Trail Days right now” Dosu said.

She came and sat down in the grass with us and we began exchanging the usual trail stories back and forth. Pockets told us a story about how she ended up with Lyme’s while on the trail, had picked it up somewhere in the southern part of New England, and advised us to go to a doctor and get a test done anyway by the time we reached Connecticut, whether or not we were showing symptoms.

After a while, she went to her car and pulled out a massive bin full of hiker resupply items. I couldn’t believe what she had in there! Instant quinoa, pasta sides galore, all kinds of foil pack meats, everything we could have wanted! Before she began loading up, she gave us all one last option to hop in the car with her and ride to trail days. None of the other guys wanted to go, and I was waiting for a friend, so she left alone. Within 20 minutes of leaving, Dosu said “damn, I should have gone with her”. I was thinking the same thing.

After Wolverine and Happy Camper left, Dosu and I decided to set up shop outside the Wayside. I couldn’t get a signal for anything at the store, so I walked back on the road about a quarter of a mile to see where Elise was. I finally managed to get a call out and she had left late and was jam stuck in traffic further south and probably wouldn’t be showing up until around 5PM. Well in that case, I guess we just have to make do. Even though the meals in the restaurant were outrageously expensive, the beer was surprisingly not priced so badly. Thus, Dosu and I spent the majority of the afternoon drinking and enjoying the people watching of all the tourists.

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Sometimes the best part about hiking isn’t even the hiking part

We found it quite comical, how they viewed us as wild animals, and yet we viewed them and their brand new family vans and their outrageously expensive designer clothes the same way. Here, at this very Wayside, was a thin border between their world and ours, probably the closest we have come to each other so far, and ever will come for the rest of the trail. Never has anywhere so far felt more like a zoo than this place in particular, and I think it’s largely due to the motor road that brings in swathes of people who are unaccustomed to seeing hikers in the area.

Finally, as the restaurant was closing down and I was preparing to setup camp in the parking lot, Elise arrived in her “new” Mini Cooper. Car was in rough shape and was having mechanical issues, but at least it was still drivable. We left the park and went back to Waynesboro, our first stop being Alex’s taco truck, where Sy had left me a bag of tobacco.

Wanting to make it look as sketchy as possible, I told Elise to pull over and wait in the car. I got out and walked right up to the window.

“Hey Alex, Sy said you would be leaving some stuff here for me”

“Oh yeh man sure, no problem :)” He says

He disappears for a moment, and comes back to the window holding a grocery bag with rubber bands wrapped around it. It felt about close to 2 pounds in weight, and I couldn’t really smell anything through the bag. He had told me tobacco, but we will find out later…

I skuttled back to the car, opened the door, dropped the bag on the floorboard, and turned to Elise

“We gotta go right now” I said with urgency

She wide eyed the bag on the floor “What in god’s name is that??”

“Don’t worry about it” I said “When we get somewhere we will open it”

She shook her head, and took off for the other side of town. I checked my guide book for cheap hotels or B&Bs, without much luck. I found one place that was close to the free camping area in town, and headed over that way to check it out. I got out alone, to see what the deal was. It was a relatively older house, probably from the early part of the 20th century. The front door was unlocked, so I let myself in thinking that was standard practice for a B&B. A man came running up to me quite swiftly with an angry expression on his face.

“Can I help you?” he asked curtly

“Yeh, I was just trying to find a place for me and my friend to stay. I am a thru-hiker, but she picked me up in the Shennies and we wanted to see if you had any rooms available tonight”

“I’m not taking anyone tonight” He said abrasively while turning on a dime and marching back into the other end of the house.

I stood there in a kind of shock for a minute. I glanced to my left and noticed one of the side window panes in the front door with several awards from places like Trip Advisor and those other travel sites. Shaking my head, I walked out.

“No luck.” I said when I got back in the car.

After a quick google search, we found a place on the outside of town (way far from where any hiker could reach, so thankful we had a car:) that was pretty cheap. On getting up to the room, I opened the mystery bag from my man and sure enough it was gigantic tobacco leaves, organic and homegrown just like he had said they would be. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them, so I just started crunching them up and putting them in ziploc baggies to give out to other hikers when I saw them next.