Max Patch to Hot Springs
The rain chased by the wind was gone by morning. Only puffs of clouds remained, each one traveling fast towards Max Patch. The sun hidden behind a ridge brightened the morning sky with the promise of a better day. For the moment the cold remained so I decided to heat my morning granola using the pot to warm my hands. I ate standing while soaking in the surroundings. I shivered at the thought of those who may have slept the night on top of Max Patch. I was thankful to be where I was and excited about the day. The others awoke and we talked while alternately preparing breakfast and shoving items in our packs. All of us except the lone hiker who hadn’t yet shown any signs of life. Eventually he exited his bag and joined the conversation alleviating my concerns for his health.
Frank and I leisurely approached the morning but hadn’t intended a late start. It was 10:30. We all said our goodbyes. The other three-headed south and Frank and I went north toward Walnut Mountain. The late start caused some issues later that day and forced us to make a decision to set up a quick camp just before a storm arrived. The problem we faced was lack of water. Our planned stopping point was a little past the water source. We were ahead of two hikers that would also want two of the three sites that were listed as unofficial tent sites in our guidebook. We decided to claim our spots before getting water. The unofficial sites turned out to be no sites at all. Thinking maybe this wasn’t the actual spot we headed further down the trail. There was nothing flat enough to pitch a tent. Eventually, going far enough that neither of us were going back for the water we had passed up.
Coming upon an old dirt road and darkness approaching not to mention rain in the forecast we decided to camp for the night. The problem was our guide listed no water in the area. Frank was dry and I had about a cup of water remaining. We had passed up the last water source about a half of a mile back uphill. I went in search of water down the dirt road which was really not dirt but grass. Walking downhill I stumbled upon an old log cabin on its last legs. There was a little stream curving around the foot of a steep embankment. I hurriedly filled my 2 liters and headed back. Frank had also found a source in the other direction.Talk about a gift from God! I felt a few sprinkles so went about getting my tent set up. Then immediately ate a couple of summer sausage sandwiches and cheese crackers followed by some dried blueberries for dessert. We filtered our water and I took a long slug or two before heading into the tent for the night. There was a pretty severe storm that night with wind , rain, and evidently rumbling thunder and lightning flashing in the sky. I say evidently because somehow I slept through it. Frank had to tell me about it the next day. I must have been really tired! I did wake up at some point to gusting winds which came like distant waves. The shaking leaves grew louder and louder with the approaching wind until it passed over us continuing on for miles. This happened over and over again for at least an hour. The half-moon was bright. The clouds blown far away. I went outside and marveled at the power and beauty of nature. Shadows from the moon and leaves danced around making the moonlit earth appear as if it too was moving. A sudden chill made me realize the temperature had dropped, back in the tent and covered by the warm bag I drifted back to sleep.
To be continued.