Sunday, August 16, 2015

Walnut Mountain Shelter to Hot Springs, NC - 13.1 miles

We load up and head out early Sunday. Again, the weather is near perfect... A little crisp but nice. We are a little sore and David has developed a dreaded blister on his foot, but we push on towards Hot Springs at a steady pace. When I say "steady pace" that means we are covering about 2 miles each hour. However, Grayson's pace is not the same as our pace. He seems to glide over the terrain and at times he is so far ahead he has to wait for us to catch up...younger legs, younger lungs...younger everything.

We finally make it to Hot Springs with plenty of time to spare. The days hike had us dropping nearly 3,000 ft. in elevation and although the descents are just as tough as the ascents, we were able to move at a decent rate.

Arriving in Hot Springs was bliss. We dropped our gear off at the car and headed over to the Spring Creek Tavern for a hot meal and a beer. Their deck was the perfect ending for this hike. Being a cool hiker town meant that Sophie was allowed to join us on the deck as we ate. There are no strange looks here.  We were dirty, stinky and tired but we fit right in. 

Another section in the books. So glad that I got to share a little trail with my brother David. Despite the new blisters, I think he will be back again soon...I know for sure that I will.

Walnut Mountain Shelter

We say goodbye to Max Patch and head out towards our camp for the night...Walnut Mountain Shelter. Shortly into our hike we saw something that none of us had ever seen before...a herd of llamas. Not sure if this was some type of llama club but there seemed to be about a dozen people out for a hike with their llamas.

Sophie is a true hiking dog...running full steam all day, but when its time for a rest...its time for a rest.

We make it to Walnut Mountain Shelter with plenty of daylight left. We are all glad to see that the shelter area isn't too crowded. There were only 5 other people there for the night. We quickly set up our tents, grab some fresh water and gather firewood.

As the sun slowly set over the ridge line, we had a little fun creating some illusions with our cameras...don't judge...we had nothing better to do.

Morning comes early and we pack up and head out towards our final destination...Hot Springs, NC.

Max Patch

 Our mobile phone reception wasn't that good all day and all we knew was that Grayson was going to drive up to Max Patch and we would meet up with him around Noon. The AT crosses a gravel road about .5 miles from the parking area at Max Patch. We knew that we were close to Max Patch and decided that we would attempt to call Grayson to get an idea of where he was. No sooner than I grabbed my phone when a black 4Runner came driving down the road and pulled up beside us. It was Grayson and his dog, Sophie. We climbed in and drove to the parking area below Max Patch. I don't think we could have timed that up any better if we tried.

Max Patch was a treat. I had heard Grayson speak of it often but wasn't sure what to expect. It did not disappoint. Imagine a grassy clearing about the size of five football fields perfectly draped over the top of a high mountain (elev. 4,629).


It was the perfect place for lunch. People often ask "what do you eat while on the trail?". It has been trial and error, but generally I try to take things that are easy to pack, contain some protein, and doesn't make too much trash. One of my favorites is tuna fish and peanut butter crackers. The tuna comes in a flat easy to open pouch and goes great with Ritz crackers. The peanut butter now comes in small little packets too. One of the best lunch spots on the trail.

Day 2 - Groundhog Shelter to Walnut Mountain Shelter - 13.1 miles

David and I tried to get an early jump on the day, but I think it was around 9am before we were packed up and ready to head out for the day. Our plan was to meet up with our cousin, Grayson, at Max Patch around lunch time.  Grayson was going to join us for the remainder of our hike back to Hot Springs.

The morning air was crisp but not too cold. Kind of perfect weather for hiking.

Groundhog Shelter

We finally made it to Groundhog Shelter a little before dusk. I had hoped that it wouldn't be too crowed, but my hopes were dashed as we arrived. This is early April and the Thru Hikers are everywhere. David and I found a bare spot in the woods a few hundred feet from the Shelter and set up our tents.

There was a small tent near us that was already zipped up for the night. The next morning two girls (they were sisters) and a dog hatched from the tent. I still have no idea how those girls slept in that small tent along with their dog and packs. Who am I to question their tent strategy...I zip myself up in a tent that resembles a light weight coffin each night.

The shelter does have a privy...a very small privy. I was able to catch David in this "money shot" while he was checking some messages in the office....

FAA Tower elevation 4,263

You never know what you will find along each hike. At first I thought we had stumbled into a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but it turned out to be a FAA tower. Kind of spooky but nice views.

Day 1 - Davenport Gap to Groundhog Shelter - 9.6 miles

We got dropped off early in the afternoon and began the short hike to our camp for the night...Groundhog Shelter. I've got my new Osprey pack loaded down with about 30 lbs. of gear. David is using my older Osprey pack and he is carrying about the same load. Threw some seeds in my mouth and began the climb.     

We crossed 1-40 about 1.5 miles into the hike. I now know what a possum feels like...scampering across the interstate trying to dodge traffic that is screaming down the mountain. We made it safely across to find what resembled stairways to heaven. Turns out they were actually stairways to hell...that's a lot of steps!