I woke twice during the night – not because of bad weather or my sleeping uncomfortably. I was awaken by a cat who just couldn’t seem to get enough of me. He/she kept curling up next to my stomach and purring loudly, wanting pets. It was really cute.
I finally woke to a rooster crowing at about 6:30 and quickly started packing up. Today, I would cross Max Patch – a huge bald that promises 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. I’ve read about his section for years.
I paid Lumpy for my “room” and all the snacks I ate the night prior and was back on the trail by 8:00. At 8:30, I stopped at a turn in the trail close enough to I-40 to still get decent cell service and began the laborious task of uploading journal entries and pics.
Several hikers passed me, including Medicine Man, Moon Boots and Shaggy. Savage paused and had breakfast as I finished the uploads and the two of us began the 3,000 foot ascent of Snowbird Mountain. Not since leaving the N.O.C. have I tackled such a steep ascent. It was slow going for me and I quickly fell behind.
Having started hiking this morning at such a low elevation, it was nice to be reminded that spring was just right around the corner. I think I found Fiddlehead ferns, but I’m not sure. After an hour’s climb, I had ascended past spring and right back into winter’s embrace. I put my jacket on during the ascent and left it on for the rest of the day.
I summited Snowbird just after noon and found my hiking buddies having lunch next to a gravel road. I followed the road to the very top of Snowbird to get a look at an FAA radar tower, but was blown away with the view of the Smokeys to the south. They loomed large and cloudy over the surrounding mountains. It was cool to know I had just crossed the tallest mountains in the area.
I paused and finished my breakfast. After a quick descent of Snowbird, I emerged into Brown Gap to find trail magic – a past thru-hiker had a great setup with hotdogs, drinks, cookies and comfortable chairs. I ate and relaxed. As I was lounging around, we got word of more trail magic at Max Patch. I packed up and hit the trail.
Just under an hour and half later, I popped out of the woods and found a large group stationed around an R.V., grilling and having a good time. The group running this trail magic stop thru-hiked last year. They were a very generous group. I was still full from lunch, but took some brownies for the road.
As I was leaving the trail magic for Max Patch, I was approached by an older man who asked if I’d like some crackers and oranges for the road. Absolutely, sir! He introduced himself as Melvin and had, apparently, been struck by lightning 12 times. He even wore an embroidered hat commemorating his feat. He says he’s famous – I’ll need to check this out when I get some reliable Internet access.
The hike up to the summit of Max Patch was everything I hoped it would be. We were greeted with uncharacteristically clear weather making for awesome views. I think we sat huddled in the wind for nearly an hour before pressing on.
The temperature was noticeably dropping and I began hiking towards Roaring Fork Shelter, our camp for the night. Having skipped out on the second trail magic stop, I ate a warm plop of mashed potatoes for dinner by the fire.
There’s a freeze warning tonight with more high winds moving in. I’m ready for Hot Springs. The plan is to camp outside of town after grabbing a hot dinner as we’re all running low on food. It looks to be a long day with town nearly 20 miles north.
While today was slow-going, my knees are getting noticeably better. I rarely take ibuprofen during the day anymore.
Breakfast – iced coffee, breakfast mix
Snack – the last of the breakfast mix
Lunch – 2 hotdogs with mustard, one brownie, one sugar cookie
Snack – Lance Nip-Chee crackers
Dinner – butter and herb instant potatoes with salmon, one beef jerky tortilla, the last brown sugar Pop-Tart