Groundhog Creek Shelter to Deer Park Mountain Shelter – 23 miles
No rain today! Sunny with a high of 67°F. The gap before climbing to Max Patch there were 2 women who thru hiked in the past that had trail magic. They cooked sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits. There was also coffee, chocolate milk, juice, fruit, teddy grams, fruit snacks, and jugs of water. I left part of my water filter at Cosby Knob Shelter in the Smokies, so the clean water was great! Max Patch was amazing! It’s a large grassy bald on top of a hill with a 360° view. Eskimo and I hung out there for a bit. I put out my tent and sleeping pad to dry from the rain the night before and I played my p-bone for a bit. A couple comes up to us and told us they left trail magic up there for thru-hikers. It was a box of fruit – apples, oranges, bananas – a water jug (more clean water!) and a trash bag. If I didn’t have 23 miles to hike that day I wouldn’t have needed to eat lunch later. Eventually I had to pack up and keep moving. It got so warm that I hiked in my sports bra and no shirt for a few hours. It felt amazing! Can’t wait for another weather day like today. Also met Mean Spaghetti today. Him and Eskimo got drunk tattoos together. Mean Spaghetti’s is of him on a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. I almost didn’t make it to the shelter tonight. My feet really hurt the last 5 miles that I almost stealth camped. I’m glad I got here though, because I got a spot in the shelter and I met a dad backpacking with his daughter. They’re finishing in Hot Springs tomorrow and he said I can take whatever food they haven’t finished. Also, they’re from Charlotte! I didn’t get to camp until 7pm and its 9pm now. Past dark, meaning past my bed time. Excited for my break in Hot Springs tomorrow!
22 days on the AT until I had my first real warm day and it was glorious – minus the fact that I did not have a water filter and I was still 26 miles from town. I asked Eskimo if I could use his but he did not carry a filter with him and braved the possibility of getting giardia. I was not as willing and hiked on hoping to run into someone that would let me borrow theirs. Not long into the morning I ran into Eskimo again sitting in a chair and enjoying some trail magic breakfast from 2 past AT thru hikers. I happily joined him. These 2 women made a hot breakfast for us and even had fresh gallon jugs of water so I was able to fill up both of my 2 liter water bottles. That should be just enough to get me to Hot Springs the next morning.
The trail magic was set up at the bottom of Max Patch so once I was done eating it was time to go up. Max Patch was everything and more from what other hikers had described it as. It is a big bald – no trees or anything on it obstructing the view – surrounded by green hills. My tent was soaked from yesterday so I laid it out in the sun held down by my hiking poles and my pBone – balds are notoriously windy. Eskimo and I were sitting up there hanging out when he told me about a friend that he was hiking with that got behind him who went by the trail name Mean Spaghetti. They met each other in Georgia and had been hiking together ever since. They even got tattoos in town together. Eskimo got the word ESKIMO on his arm and Mean Spaghetti got a tattoo of himself hiking up a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with Mean Spaghetti written over the top on his calf. I met him that day and immediately asked if I could see his tattoo and it was even better than I imagined it would be. I later found out way farther down the trail that a lot of people asked him the same thing before he knew them and it got on his nerves, so sorry MS for being one of those people <3.
While sitting up on Max Patch for the hour and a half I was there, I dried all of my gear, played some pBone, and even got more trail magic. An old couple carried up a cooler of soda and fruit and even hung around for a few minutes to talk with Eskimo and I. I still had about 15 miles to hike to get to the shelter I wanted to end my day at so eventually I packed every and started hiking again. Eskimo said he was going to try and hike the full 26 miles into town so that he and Mean Spaghetti could go straight to drinking beer and then sleep in all day the next day while they took a zero day. I was more than happy with sticking with 23 miles – assuming I even made it that far.
Today was a beautiful day. Spring is always my favorite season, not just because my birthday is in spring but also because all the wildlife is coming back to life, flowers are blooming, and all the animals that hide away in the winter start to come out because they know that the cold is going away. It always puts me in a good mood. The last few miles before the shelter were really hard on my feet and my hips from my pack. I almost stopped 2 miles back to stealth camp, but I did not want to spend the night alone so I pushed forward and made it before dark!
At Deer Park Mountain Shelter, I met a dad and daughter hiking together who were from Charlotte, NC! I grew up only 30 minutes from them. Eskimo told them that I should be spending the night at this campsite and they had extra food ready to give to me. I took a granola bar and a mountain house apple pie dessert. I had never had one of their desserts so I was excited to save it for a rainy day. There were some other older women who had set up in the shelter already, but there was still space for me in there. I made sure to set up my sleeping pad and sleeping bag just before the sun went away. I ate my dinner quickly and using my headlamp, wrote in my journal until around 9pm. I was spent and was happy to finally crawl into my sleeping bag and fall asleep before having a nero day in Hot Springs tomorrow.