Wednesday, January 1, 2014
AT - Max Patch to Devil Fork Gap
Day One: 7.5 Miles
We met Dad and Mom in Knoxville and headed to Devil Fork Gap to drop off our car. We dropped off the car and then headed back to Max Patch Road to drop us off at the trailhead there. We got on the trail at 2:00 pm.
Our first people were at Max Patch 0.8 mile down the trail. We met a lady hiker that is with the Nashville Meet Up Group who was up here celebrating her parents 50th anniversary with family from all over. That was one of many, many day hikers up on the Bald. We went over the bald and met a rabbit hunter in the woods. They had gotten six rabbits so far that day. After leaving him, it started sprinkling on us and we ended up hiking in rain gear. The wind started blowing and we were thinking that we didn't really want to spend the night on top of a mountain in this weather. By the time we got to the Walnut Mountain Shelter, the wind was about blowing us off the trail.
There was a couple of folks standing by the fire in front of the shelter and when we peeked inside there were eight beady eyes looking back at us. There were two tents set up out back of the shelter. We were invited to stand next to the fire to warm up or I guess get whatever heat you could in this wind. We looked around and then down the side of the mountain at a flat spot by the spring. It did not take us long to make up our mind and get out of the wind. We set up our tent by the spring. It was still raining and we could hear the wind howling over the mountain above our heads. We ended up cooking and eating in the tent that night.
Day Two: 13.1 Miles
The wind had stopped and the rain was mostly over with lots dropping off the trees when we got up. We ate breakfast in the tent and then packed up. When we got up to the shelter, the guys were up and wet. They said that the rain blew right into the shelter and through the sides. They said that we were the smart ones, which came as no big surprise to us:) They were going to Hot Springs. They were planning on staying another night at Deer Park Mt. Shelter, but were just going to hike out with wet gear.
We stopped at Garenflo Gap for lunch and to dry equipment out. As we were packing back up a group of Boy Scouts went by. Later, we would find out that this was the same group that we met last night. We visited with them numerous times as we leap frogged them on the trail.
As the day continued the sky cleared up and we had some better views. Before long we were viewing Hot Springs from above. We hiked into town, checking out the hiker's hostels. We stopped at the Smoky Mountain Diner to find that they close at 4 pm on Sunday. They we're very friendly and stayed open for us as it was 4 now. We had the Hungry Hiker burgers and they were great! We visited with one of the owners ,Genia, who has section hiked 800 miles of the AT.
After dinner we went down to the Hot Springs Resort and Spa to get a campsite. We stopped at the store and they sent us across the street to the Spa where we saw our Boy Scouts again. They were going in for a soak. We got our site and then hiked back over to the campground. We bought fire wood from the store and enjoyed the night. The only draw back of the campground is the train that goes right by it. Luckily for us we only got woke up one time through the night.
Day Three: 12.5 Miles
It had sprinkled through the night, so we had a wet tent again. We got up, ate, and started hiking. We crossed the French Broad river and then hiked along side it. The trail turns and you get to climb a steep 1500 ft climb which has a lot of overlooks. We managed to hike up into the clouds which lasted the rest of the day. No views for us! We knew we were in some beautiful area's too.
At Pump Gap there is a concrete dam holding back a small pond. There are benches around the pond area and some fields on the other side. This is the Mill Ridge Wildlife Management Area. Then you hike the gravel road before you hike the bridge over 70. We stopped on this climb for lunch and Lora surprised me with a burrito. It sure was good! A couple hiked passed us while we were eating. We saw them again as they were coming down from the tower on Rich Mountain. We didn't bother to go to the tower as we were still in the clouds. It was cool seeing all the trees covered with ice as we climbed and descended the mountains.
We stopped by the Spring Mountain shelter and decided to continue to Deep Gap for the night. There is a blue blazed trail down to Little Paint Creek where I got our water. It is a pretty good climb back up and after we set up our camp I found that I had lost my inflatable seat. It was getting dark and everything was covered in ice. We ate in the tent again and called it a night.
Day Four: 12.4 Miles
We got up to a very cold morning. I hiked back down to the creek and found my seat about twenty feet from the creek. It was a good morning warm up for me. We headed out climbing Buzzard Roost Ridge then descended once again to cross 70 at Allen Gap. Now we get to climb 2400 feet to Camp Creek Bald. We stopped just short of the Little Laurel shelter for lunch. We hung things out to refreeze while we ate. A couple of ladies where hiking down and passed us by.
Camp Creek Bald has a tower on it, but you cannot climb it. We just hiked on. There is a good campsite just the other side with water. Soon you can see Jones Meadow and the White Rocks which form a cliff wall. There is a side trail to a good view off the top of the White Rocks. There is a trail to the road to Jones Meadow where there were some hunters. We checked out the Blackstack Cliffs too from another side trail with thick overgrowth. You could see the bluff rocks the trail was going to climb up to Big Firescald Bald. There is a side trail around Firescald to take in bad weather and I would suggest using it for that. Firescald is a boulder ridgeline a mile and quarter long. It is a challenge to maneuver over all the boulders and rocky climbs in good weather. It is worth the work for the views. You can see over many mountains from on top. It was really challenging for us after a long day of hiking. We decided to call it a night at the first campsite with water which ended up being Lick Log Gap.
I tried and tried to get something to burn for a fire, but ended up just eating in the tent and calling it a night.
Day Five: 10.1 Miles
We got up and hiked to the Jerry Cabin shelter for breakfast. Yes, we had a snack before we left. It gave us shelter and a good water source. As we ate, some hunting dogs walked by. We climbed Coldspring Mountain to find a very long grassy bald. We walked through other fields and got to see "Big Rock". There is a side trail to the rock, but it goes all the way around the rock and back to the main trail. The Big rock is just a big rock and the views are not very much to see. From there we started our road walking which is the longest road walk so far on the AT. Its old gravel road, but it is road. It went up Big Butt which is our 300 miles on the AT mark.
The decent to Flint Gap is a major steep 1000 foot drop. We ate lunch in the Gap and then climbed to the Flint Mountain shelter which is in the best shape of all the shelters in this section.
The rest of our hike was pretty and level walking. We only saw birds for wildlife and probably four different memorials for thru hikers that have died. Not sure why they are all on this section?
Total Miles: 55.6 Miles