Because we were the only guests at our B&B last night, the owners let us upgrade into the suite rather than the single room we had reserved. The adults had their own bedroom while the kids “slept” up in the loft. Birthday excitement had them rustling around by 5 AM. We sent them back to bed until 6:30, which just meant that they did their own private gift exchange and then read their kindles until we let them come down the ladder.
Cartwheel’s excitement was palpable. She had been unable to contain her excitement from the time we first walked by ATC headquarters on the fifth and she heard about all the packages that were waiting for her. We made her leave them there as we walked on knowing we would be back for her actual birthday. The gift giving had actually started the night before when she received an AT necklace from her friend Wired and a different AT necklace from her friend (and nine time AT thru-hiker) Baltimore Jack.
But today was her birthday when she would get to open presents that came in boxes. During the 5 AM gift exchange, Robin Hood presented her with a walrus he whittled with his new knife (he also inscribed Happy Bday MK). Then she read cards and opened gifts from her grandparents (mostly edible), as well as a new camera that is all her own with which to document this adventure from her perspective.
After breakfast, All In and Robin Hood took off in a borrowed car to procure some dry ice and ice cream for the afternoon’s festivities. A childhood friend of Mama Bear came out from DC with her family, and a college friend of All In came out with her husband as well. After a little in-town morning craziness, we all piled into cars and headed out to Gathland State Park where we had come off the trail the day before. We had a trail side birthday party with homemade birthday cake and cupcakes (brought by our visitors), plus ice cream comes and root beer floats for all the passing hikers.
After the kids had ache downed about five root beer floats and three ice cream cones apiece (to say nothing of the cake and cupcakes), we said goodbye to our friends and headed back out on the trail in the afternoon. We even packed in a half gallon of ice cream in a stuff sack full of dry ice. After surprising some thru-hikers with offers of on trail ice cream comes pulled magically out of a frosty backpack, we stopped for the night at a campground where two different groups were passing out dinner and dessert for hikers. Cartwheel was serenaded with Happy Birthday for at least the fifth time, and there was even more cake (plus the ice cream we had packed in).
After that, the kids enjoyed filling their mugs with lemonade and dry ice to make a smoking cup of witch’s brew that eventually became sparkling lemonade. They were the hit of the party. After a little apprehension of having a trail birthday and a lot of missing her friends back home, Cartwheel enjoyed quite the fun-filled day. Bed didn’t come until late in the night (probably around ten), and the morning will surely bring some tired kiddos.