Friday, April 6, 2012

Max Patch, A.T. Thruhike 2012

     After leaving the Great Smokies, and stopping to resupply at Standing Bear Farm, I began hiking along a section of the trail that meanders along the North Carolina/Tennessee border. It was a long, hard uphill, climbing thousands of feet in elevation. I was sore, stiff, and tired. After thruhiking the Great Smokey  Mountain National Park, I was starting to be ready for a break.
     But not today. No, today I pushed on through the pain, for today I would fulfill a dream.
     I have dreamed of this long hike for many years. I remember reading of, seeing photos of, and watching in documentaries a particular place, a bald mountain called Max Patch.
     I told myself that if I do end up out here, following this dream, that I would camp atop Max Patch, and enjoy 360 degree views.
     So here I was, walking along the famed Appalachian Trail, just mere miles away from Max Patch. If I pushed, I could make it before the sun would set.
     The woods here were interesting. Old remnants of former settlers checkered the forest. Foundations, many old, weathered fences, and even a few gravestones can be spotted between Davenport and Hot Springs.
     After some hard miles, I emerged from the woods, and began up the grassy hill. I was there, standing on Max Patch.
     I quickly set up my shelter, which handled the strong winds well. I kicked off my shoes, enjoying the soft grass on my sore feet.
     I sat, and I stared out over the mountains to the west. The sun began to dip behind them, and the sky filled with color.
     I could see the distant horizon in all directions. The Smokies to the south, Mt. Mitchell way off to the east, and where the trail continued to the north.
     As the night went on, the colors grew denser and more vibrant. Words cannot tell you how incredible this scene was, nor the feelings I experienced within. It was simply perfect.
     As the sun finished setting, the sky filled with stars. I gazed above for an unknown amount of time. I then crawled into my tent and slept deeply, and dreamt vividly.
     My wristwatch alarm beeped in the early morning, and I emerged from my tent. I sat on the dewy grass, this time facing east, and watches as the sky filled with a spectrum of colors once again.
     The experience was simply magical. The simple act of setting a tent on this grassy hill, by my lonesome, and just sitting and watching the simple things that slip by us every day, will prove to be one of the greatest moments of my life.


  1. Ray, I am glad that we shared a Bear moment north of Neels Gap, and that I thought to get the name of your blog while I was there with you. I have been enjoying your account of the AT thus far. This post was particularly good--as is the image of you on top of Max Patch. I am only sorry that my journey this year will end just shy of Max Patch, at Davenport Gap.

    Keep up the good work.

    Robin (Bear-Bait)

    1. Bear-Bait, it was a pleasure! I am glad to hear from you again. I hope your hike has been well. Thank you for the kind words!


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