As I expected, today was the best day on trail ever. I *love* the section from Standing Bear over Max Patch to Hot Springs. If there were a heaven and if I were to go there, I would just do this section over and over again. 30 miles through a botanical garden of flowers of all colors and sizes…views on what I still think is the most incredible “mountain” on the whole Triple Crown–Max Patch…ah, what a spectacular day. And it was only made better by the delicious wholesome All You Can Eat vegetarian meal at Elmer’s amazingly home-like antiquey Sunnybank hostel.
I left Standing Bear at 5 after making myself some eggs (apparently, they are microwave-able) and made it up to the top of Snowbird, a beautiful, grassy Southern bald, for what I imagine was the most beautiful Easter morning anyone could have. I felt so fortunate to be on the trail, so lucky to be hiking, and so special to see the Smokies and all the mountains lit by an emerging pink sun.
On the way down, I saw a sick weekend southbound hiker, and since there was no one else about at that hour, helped him up Snowbird until we found his friend an hour later.
There was incredible Brown Gap trail magic led by the Rat Pack (super trail maintainers). My friend Pi got my into the idea of offering the best food in my food bag to trail maintainers as thanks…what these guys were doing trying to feed me was beyond my comprehension! This was all you can eat eggs, bacon, grapefruit juice…mmm.. To make it better, someone left sodas 3 miles from Brown Gap for the last bit up the mountain.
Max Patch lived up to my memory of it—the most beautiful place in the world. The only bummer was that the new shoes I got in Fontana were a bit too small for my now swollen feet and I’d gotten a blister on my pinky toe. I took a break at a campsite, dreaming of Leukotape (sports tape that sticks forever…and is only available online) and getting new shoes in Hot Springs. Miraculously (more trail magic!), a weekend hiker saw my blister and offered me as much as leukotape as I wanted!!!
The rest down to Hot Springs was prety fun and I got into flow and ended up going much faster than normal. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t eaten since Brown Gap until it’d been almost 7 hours since my last meal (bad, bad hiker). The last uphill before Hot Springs was a bit tricky, but all was better on an easy downhill right into delicious food…
What a spectacular day! This trail is so incredible. I can’t wait to get off the computer and hike some more!