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Re: [ft-l] Max Patch to I40



Hi ft list  members:.  Here is the trail report of my son and his friend
on the Hot Springs to I-40 hike in July.  I thought you may be
interested.  Sometimes I wish I had their energy.

John Wakefield
Middleburg

  Our adventure began bright and early on Thursday, July 22, at a =
slightly overgrown portion of the trail leaving the cozy town of Hot =
Springs.  After heading steeply upward, Mark and I passed the Jesuit =
Mission and Bulletin Board, taking only a moment to appreciate the =
inspiring comradeship along the AT, so unlike any other trail.  Our first
=
day took us on several steep upward climbs, passing Gragg Gap and =
encountering the first fellow hiker in just over an hour.  The forest =
along Deer Park Mountain ranged from dense tunnels of rhododendron =
(unfortunately not in full bloom), to open areas with teasing views and =
welcoming breezes.  As we made our way up Lamb Knob and towards Garenflo
=
Gap we encountered collegiate youngsters, senior citizens, and women's =
groups alike.  Despite our excitement at hearing of rattlesnakes visible
=
along the way, we were treated only to the playful company of deer, =
urging us deeper and deeper into the lush forest.
    Arriving at Garenflo we paused to take a snack and consult our maps.
=
 The prospect of dipping our heads into Big Rock Spring caused us to =
attack Bluff Mountain with renewed energy.  Little did we know just how =
much energy would be required.  Coming up on the gentle waterfall of Big
=
Rock, we dropped our packs and slid down the mossy path, braving =
stinging nettles, to splash some refreshing mountain water on sweaty =
faces.  The summit of Bluff Mountain took every bit of energy we had.  =
Seemingly endless switchbacks and never ending ascension required =
frequent breaks, as well as more than a little griping.  Finally, we =
were able to unpack some lunch and have an interesting meal inside a =
cloud.  Thunder boomed as a storm front and rolled in, limiting =
visibility and sending us searching for our rain gear.  Fortunately, the
=
moisture avoided us for the most part and instead left us on our way to =
Catpen Gap, and camp for the first day.  Once we arrived at Catpen Gap =
we set up an initial camp that was later moved to a beautiful bald just =
higher up an old jeep trail.  Water was available to us bushwhackers =
with attentive ears, not afraid to get down on our hands and knees to =
get to it.  We spent a wonderful evening talking about life, love, and =
sunsets, watching the stars make their celestial cameos, one by one.
    Day Two began around 8 am as we stumbled out of bed and broke camp. 
=
Our destination, Max Patch Mountain was barely visible and we were =
excited at the prospect of an unobstructed 360 degree view of the =
beautiful Carolina/Tennessee Appalachians.  After descending to Kale Gap
=
and climbing Walnut Mtn., we were treated to some creek-side hiking on =
our way to Lemon Gap, a gorgeous patch on sunshine at the edge of the =
dark forest.  Walking along Roaring Fork Valley we were once again =
hailed by northern-bound hikers of all ages.  The Roaring Fork Sheltered
=
offered easy access to water and signaled the beginning of wonderful =
cascades and deafening sounds of rushing water as we continued on.  At =
one point we stopped to slide down the mountainside to a splendidly =
frigid series of waterfalls, stripping down and rolling around in the =
clear, rushing, cool mountain water.  The ascent up Max Patch was =
relatively easy and enjoyable.  Along Buckeye Ridge we traveled through =
dense tunnels and wide open ridge lines.  Eventually we found ourselves =
walking the last few hundred yards to the pinnacle of Max Patch, =
encouraged by the grand scenery.  Our plans to camp there that night =
were foiled after an afternoon picnic became a fight for survival =
against yellow jackets and various biting flies.  Instead, we decided to
=
continue down the trail and hopefully find a phone, signaling our ride =
to come a full day early to the pickup point.  Once off Max Patch, we =
headed down Max Patch Rd. on the Tennessee side until we found some =
friendly locals with a telephone to the outside.  After a quick collect =
call it was several miles back to the trail.  Nightfall came as we =
attempted to make it to the Groundhog Creek Shelter.  Fortunately, our =
flashlights provided plenty of light to stumble down the southern slope =
of Hawk's Roost and into Deep Gap.  We were pleasantly surprised to find
=
the Shelter partially filled by a father and two sons, already bedding =
down for the evening.  A late dinner and water stop were all we had =
energy for and we quickly found ourselves drifting to sleep by the sweet
=
lullaby of a dozen scurrying feet just out of sight.
    Our final day came as our companions bid us farewell and we lazily =
ate breakfast, packing up for our final test.  Snowbird Mtn. loomed =
larger in our minds than in reality.  The steep parts weren't the =
unconquerable spires we imagined and we made good time to the Waterville
=
School Rd.  Another half of a mile brought us back to the horns, tires, =
smog, and endless noise we had just spent 35 miles on the trail trying =
to forget.  As we dropped our packs under a highway sign I thought of =
all the creature comforts I couldn't wait to get back to.  Ironically, =
now that I'm surrounded by my air conditioning, car, computer, =
refrigerator, and lazy summer days, I find my mind and my heart =
wondering back to that endless green canopy and a blurry dirt path...

Jeremiah Davis
Arkansas

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