I awoke to drool factor 10 and had a cup of tea, then more Ginger ale. I figured Paul would make it into Burney Falls State Park near around 9 or 10. I went looking for him around 10 by the park store. A few thru-hikers were there but hadn’t seen him. They told me about the Bird Spring cache and thought maybe he got waylaid there. They said the cache was incredible…beer, soda, icy cold water a picnic table, stove plus food. Figures I miss that one too. I mutter aloud that if i had WiFi id be able to locate where Paul is exactly, via the Delorme. One of the hikers tells us that you get free WiFi at the visitors center. Now why didn’t we know that. We go to visitor’s center. Per the Delorme locator he should be just before Hwy 299. We decide to drive over there thinking maybe we can catch him before he enters the park. No such luck. We go a couple miles down the road and find cell service. I now see the text from Paul to pick him up at 8pm at Hwy 299…last night. Uh oh! I now begin to worry a bit. Where is he. I text him. ‘Where are you?.’ No reply. Hmm. Maybe he thought we were supposed to meet in Burney (the town). We drive down the road looking for him. No Paul. We get to town and check the usual places…McDonalds, Pizza place, Safeway. Still no Paul. Well at least at Safeway we pick up a Coke and bag of chips for him and more Ginger Ale for me. We figure once we find him, we’ll come back for our resupply shopping, and maybe a pizza. By now the antibiotics are in full effect and I am feeling somewhat human. Paul responds to my text of ‘where are you?’, “hiking”. Not real helpful. Looking at the locator shows he real close to the park. We race back and look for him. No other hikers or the entrance station has seen him. Now I’m really worried. It’s super hot, and maybe Paul is sick now. We decide to walk over the hike and bike campsites where they direct the thru-hikers and look for him there. If our Delorme was set for 10 minute tracking we would have located him sooner, but to save the battery we have it set at 2 hours. We see him near the kiosk and call to him. He is pissed, especially because I didn’t respond to his text last night and he couldn’t get ahold of me. Turns out that he hitched into town, around 8pm, ate pizza, drank beer, got a motel room, did laundry and shopped for his resupply. When we were looking for him in town we had actually passed each other on the road as he had hitched back to the trail. Lessons learned. Stick to the plan, and make sure we all know the specifics of the plan, and countermeasures for variables.
Paul tells us of a father and son he met who are on a cross country adventure to surprise the father’s older brother who is hiking the trail. They had narrowed it down to 20 miles. They were looking for “Bird food”.
When we drove back into town for dinner, we stopped to take a picture of a sign on the trail. The father and son were waiting there and had decided to set up camp at that junction. While we were talking, I spied a hiker heading our way who looked similar to the man standing in front of me. ‘Look there, is that him?’, I pointed out. Why yes it was! How cool it was to be there at their reunion and to be able to capture it for them. They had driven cross country from Georgia, and their plan worked!