Trail Update #5: the week North Carolina brought the trail magic
Hiking the AT in North Carolina is a roller coaster – literally. So many ups and downs. So many unnecessarily steep ups and downs. Basically, the mountains in North Carolina have kicked my butt and I’m looking forward to completing this state. (Let’s be real: I will probably say that about every state – so nothing personal, NC).
BUT this week North Carolina (and, more frequently, the people here) knocked it out of the park in terms of the magic of the trail.
Exhibit A: Max Patch
First up, Max Patch. If you’ve never been to Max Patch, go. It’s this amazing grassy bald with 360° views of mountains on mountains on mountains (and for those who don’t hike themselves, you can just drive there). I knew it was something because everyone was talking about it on the trail, but I didn’t really know what to expect and that made it all the more awesome. Pictures will not do it justice, but here are a few:
On top of the gorgeousness of the bald itself, we also happened up some truly spectacular trail magic!! I arrived at Max Patch ahead of the others (must be noted, as this does not happen often) and saw this cute sign:
Down in the parking lot I met Two of a Kind and Left Turn – all previous thru-hikers who had all come from out-of-state just to be Trail Angels for the day – and ate some delicious homemade soup for lunch! It was so nice to just chill in the sun and talk shop with them and eat veggies!
And then, for a different kind of trail magic, while hanging out on top of the bald we randomly ran into our friend Badwater who we hadn’t seen since Gatlinburg, AND we met a marmoset named Wally:
Thank you Two of a Kind and Left Turn!!!
Exhibit B: Sunsets and Sunrises
This week I actually watched the sun set and rise, purposefully. You’d think we do that every night, but we really don’t. We hiked up to another bald area near Walnut Mountain Shelter to watch the sun set the day of Max Patch; and we camped on a small ridge a few nights later and watched the sun rise together from our tents.
The night we camped on the ridge was also the first night I’ve slept without the rainfly on my tent. I was pretty nervous, I felt very exposed and unprotected from all the scary nighttime woods things of my imagination. Turns out, it was pretty cool because of the whole getting to see the sunrise from my tent thing, and being able to see the stars at night.
Exhibit C: Hot Springs and Asheville
(Side note: Hot Springs, NC is adorable. The trail goes right down the main street, which is all of about 0.5 miles long, and it’s so friendly to hikers. We hiked 13 miles into town, and the whole time I was day-dreaming of sitting in a rocking chair with a giant glass of lemonade, and lo and behold I got into town – AGAIN! ahead of the others – and the first place I see is the Smoky Mountain Diner with a porch full of rocking chairs and free refills on the lemonade. It was heaven.)
We camped by – and bathed in – the French Broad River like true hiker trash, and our zero the next day was basically an entire day of trail magic! Slim Shady’s friend Karen picked us up and took us to Asheville where we hung out with her, their friend Amelia, and all of the food and drinks Asheville has to offer: White Duck Taco Shop, Marble Slab, Wicked Weed Brewery, Asheville Brewing Company, and Biscuit Head. AND at Wicked Weed I met up with my neighbors and longtime family friends Jan and Todd who just so happened to be in Asheville for vacation!
Lil’ Pup also finally joined the crazy stunt party and got his septum pierced. (I’ve been referring to us as the Bad Decision Bears rather than the crew lately).
Then we got to shower, do laundry, and sleep in real beds at Amelia’s parents’ GORGEOUS house where her mom, Kathy, is the sweetest, most hospitable woman on the planet. Showering and laundry were great, as always, but more than that it was so so nice to just be in a real house with a mother looking after us and not feel totally transient for a night.
Thank you Karen, Kathy and Amelia!!!
Exhibit D: Easter
Slim’s mom, Bev, made the BDB crew Easter bags filled with Rice Krispie treats and candy, and sent them with Karen to deliver to us! The first two days out of Hot Springs were hot and hilly and tough and it was the best pick-me-up to have packed out homemade Rice Krispie treats as snacks!
Hiking today we also got some Easter trail magic in the form of homemade Easter and AT rainbow cupcakes, hard-boiled eggs, Easter candy, fresh fruit, and other goodies at Devil’s Fork Gap. It was perfectly timed (lunch) and perfectly placed (right before a 3-mile climb).
Thank you Bev, Lynn, Lindsey and Mary!!!
We’ve been skirting the NC/TN border for a while now, but I should be in actual Tennessee in a few more days – yippee!
My hand is healing but still gross.
I passed the 300-mile mark.
I do not veer from the white blazes (but was lucky enough to have had good weather here).
And more pictures:
Happy hiking and more to come…
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