Deciding to Stay On
Distance doesn’t mean much. It’s elevation gain that’ll tell ya the day’s worth. 5300ft of elevation gain, in one day, was pricey. 16 brutal miles brought us to Max Patch. The last 5 miles was a consistent tease. You could see the summit miles away, but this was the last climb of the day. Taking advantage of the good weather and trail, I made it to the top quicker than I thought was possible on tired legs.
The buzz started a few days ago, the promise of a bit of magic in the woods. A mile or so past the summit of Max Patch one descends into the woods, only to find a colorful sign with the tantalizing idea of beer and burgers. I meandered down said trail to find an oasis in the woods, Green Heart Hostel- picture a tropical paradise with moonshine instead of mojitos. Greasy notes filled the nose. I ate 2 massive, and some of the best burgers. In a food coma I met my best friend on the trail yet, Sunny, a huge blockhead lab. We played keep away as the owners David and Midnight rider watched on. I’ve had yet to feel so welcomed and full bellied so close to my home in the mountains.
N 35° 52.0302′
As I prepared to leave camp, I looked to dawn my last bits of gear: visor and treking pole gloves. I grabbed first for their expected location- they weren’t on the picnic table. Okay, there in my pack somewhere. Looking briefly, then more intensely, I began to relinquish them to the place lost things go. Then, under a tree, they were found. I walked over giggling to myself that I’d place them so far away from my stuff. Only to find the articles drenched in slobber. The sweet Sunny struck again!
The day was a bit of a slog. The rough day yesterday put my body in a deficit. The added strain did make me slow a bit- a good time to watch plants. I played over interactions new and old and ending in the adage, “One can only do so much.”
A quick 5 miles brought me down into a joyful reunion. The Boyz from weeks ago, the brothers from Gatlinburg, and an eclectic crew of familiar smiles greeted me sweetly with hugs. The connection to the trail, the people and myself grows stronger everyday. The day followed with hectic swirls downtown to resupply, up to Laughing Heart Hostel for laundry, back to town to soak my feet in the rushing water with a warm sun on my face, and again to Laughing Heart to rejoice with. I’d have it no other way.
Night had my lingering around the brewery. Filling the night with conversation and cheers, I lit up like the nourished lime-green leaves of the new spring leaflets. Lare Bear and I opened up about our late fathers. I played piano with a local and we made quite the sound- I missed the piano so much.
The mountains are suspended in the clouds this morning, but they greet me with opens arms. Full on real ramen, cooked beats and a glass of red, I return to the embrace of the mountains.
When I started, the AT, after the loneliness of the Pinhoti, I secretly committed to only a month and a half. Well, here it is. I’m going to stay on. More specifically, I’m going to stay on the train I’ve found- one mile, one smile at a time. That’ll get us to Maine.
Special shoutout to my friend’s, fam, and fans who leave comments on the blog! I read them- they help more than you know.
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