From a trail intersection at mile 254.1 to Garenflo Gap (2,467 feet), Mile 268.3, for a 14.2 mile day. We ascended 2,476 feet and descended 4,268 feet.
5:00 AM, the alarm sounded and it was time to climb the one mile up to Max Patch, one of the awaited views on the Thru-hike, so we could catch the sunrise. Well, I turned my headlight on and unzipped the tent, and all I saw was the light shining on a blanket of white, we were covered in fog! Nonetheless, we pressed on to Max Patch!
Mac’s Patch, as it was originally named, is one of the most anticipated views on the Appalachian Trail. One would have probably found cattle and sheep grazing on this lush, Scottish Highland looking meadow in the early 1800’s. In the 1920’s and 30’s this 4,692 foot dot on a map was used as an airstrip, somehow, and in 1982 the United States Forest Service bought mac’s patch keeping it a grassy highland, and periodically it gets a haircut to keep its lush field of green look.
Well, we made it up there and we were in fact white walled by the fog! So, we sat down and enjoyed some breakfast and coffee behind a pair of rocks to block the wind. It was now time to move on to get about hiking to our campsite, just six miles out of the town of Hot Springs, NC, another 13.2 miles away from these rocks that shielded us from the blistering wind. As we got up, we noticed the fog was lifting behind us and we didn’t even know it, and then we turned back around and it was now lifting in front of us.
All in all, we waited around another 30 minutes to enjoy some absolutely amazing views of this iconic place. I can see now why people flock to this location to setup their tents and await the sunset and the sunrise that awaits them on a beautiful day. Unfortunately, a vast majority of those enjoying this absolutely gorgeous creation of God, do not care for it much past the camera lens. There is often times, even today, trash scattered on this beautiful place, because people come up here and brave the winds to get that special time with their people but fail to practice Leave No Trace.! If you can carry it in, how hard is it to carry it right back out!?!?
After enjoying these views we hiked on, stopping briefly at Roaring Fork Shelter (3,980 feet) at mile 257, for some water and a stop at the privy! From here we marched forward to Walnut Mountain Shelter (4,241 feet) mile 261, and stopped there for lunch and to dry out clothes.
Before getting to the shelter, we crossed Lemon Gap, and here, we learned a little something from an Appalachian Trail Conservancy employee. Garlic mustard, is a very invasive plant that puts out a chemical that keeps other plants from growing. It was planted around the Appalachian Mountains by folks living in these mountains years and years ago, because it has delicious edible leaves, but it can produce 5,000 seeds and they can live in the ground for five years or more! So, through out the growing season they will come out with bags and pull these weeds in certain areas, sometimes collecting as many as 200 pounds of garlic mustard weeds!
Once at the shelter we got our clothes dried out and enjoyed some sunshine and then a little rain came back in, after a short nap and the rain stopping we decided to make our way the remaining 6+ miles to Garenflo Gap!
About a half a mile or so north bound, the rain started back, and it did not stop until we got to Garenflo Gap!! Then, once at the gap, there was a group of women who were on a backpacking adventure all setup in the space we planned on the tenting. We were not sure how this would work out, and then they told us they were leaving, the were tired of the rain! Two days of rain takes a toll on anyone! But, we survived!