Max Patch to Hot Springs NC. part 1
First of all I’d like to thank Frank Harrison for partnering with me to do this hike.He has a wealth of experience having completed the AT in 1990. It was enormously beneficial to talk with him about his hike. The thought process and resulting decisions each day can have an effect on the psyche of the hiker and ultimately the success of the hike. Thanks to you Frank!
Ok, so gear testing was secondary as most items I’ll be taking have already been decided. A few things will have to be replaced and every piece evaluated and weighed. I’d like to shed 3 to 5 lbs. of pack weight. A complete list will follow at a later date. The main reason for the hike was my desire to see firsthand the beauty of a sunrise or sunset on Max Patch. Google it and look at the images. Let me know if you agree it is a special place.
We were dropped off a quarter-mile from the summit. Conditions were not promising. At 4600 ft. temperatures were in the low 40’s , windy and light rain. Clouds obscured any views. Heading up to the crest the wind picked up blowing the rain sideways. There would be no sunset that night and remaining on the top of Max Patch in those conditions would not be smart nor much fun. Max Patch would have to wait until another day. Without discussion we continued northbound on the trail descending quickly eventually protected from the wind by a ridge to our left. The rain seemed tolerable even comfortable without the gusting wind. Eventually one couldn’t be sure if it was raining or just dripping off the trees . A word about not getting to camp at Max Patch. I was disappointed but quickly realized the situation. You get to experience what the trail gives you. There is no fast pass or editing software to give you what you want when you want it. Nature’s beauty , power and awesomeness is experienced only on its terms and timeline. I could have come back another day but then what might I have missed further down the trail.
Eventually we arrived at Roaring Fork Shelter. It was around 4:30. The shelter itself had been hit with driving rains earlier. Water puddled inside yet we found enough dry floor for both our sleeping pads and unpacked for the night. A tarp was left folded in the corner and Frank suggested hanging it across the front of the shelter to keep out the anticipated wind and cold we expected that night. Around supper time a Father and daughter arrived claiming two more spaces. We talked and ate for an hour until the cold forced us into sleeping bags to stay warm. I read from my kindle and fell asleep probably before 8:30. I was awakened sometime before midnight by a voice and steps approaching in the dark. Another hiker had reached the shelter after an all day and part of the night battle with the elements. His pack, sleeping bag, and all clothes were wet. The four of us slid right and left creating a space in the middle and he threw his wet sleeping bag down and climbed in pulling the bag over his head. The temps dropped to 37 degrees. My body was warm but I awakened frequently because my feet were cold and my sleeping pad deflated leaving little insulation between me and the cold boards of the floor. Despite the conditions , for the most part I slept comfortably. Upon awakening at some point I heard the wet hiker coughing and groaning. I could tell he was shivering. Obviously he was unprepared for the weather and conditions. Fearing hypothermia I asked if he was all right. He responded yes and sat up and talked coherently with me for a minute or two. Satisfied no emergency existed I drifted back to sleep. To be continued…