It us just before sunset and I am here alone in the Walnut Mountain shelter, but not alone. A group of 4 friends is tenting nearby. What a great day it was today. What a contrast from the last couple. The sun shone throughout. Morning featured diffuse light burning through the mountain forest , catching glass-like glints now and then in the water droplets still clinging to leaves. A starting temp in the mid-50s that rose a lot but was never oppressive even under full sun. Just the right amount of breeze rustling the leaves. And let us not forget the babble of occasional creeks and the calls of wildlife. All this and more made this a very fine day.
I got up with my shelter-mate, 2 guys from Texas doing a section, around 715. My sleep had been so-so probably due at least in part to a headache I had. I wanted to make an early, for me, start to ensure I had plenty of time to enjoy Max Patch. I was on the at 930 or so. Over rolling forested mountainsides I marched. I found I was making fine time even though the hiking was not easy. I zipped through brow gap so fast that I failed to notice the trail magic left by Miss Janet. Oh well.
I got to max patch a little after noon. A few clouds drifted across a hazy sky but the views were still quite good. I found John, Terry and Tucker the dog up there. I had met them near standing bear farm. All good things must end and after a good half hour I packed up to continue on. The trail seemed easier now as I passed under rhoderdendren tunnels. I hit a spot of trouble and while I sorted it out Brian, Steve, Vivian, and Kevin caught up to me. Together we moved slowly forward towards Roaring Fork shelter. The last mile or so through and around pretty ravines seemed to drag, but truth is I got there about when I figured I would. After a break we hoisted our gear for the 1.8 mile hike to Walnut Mountain shelter. Though mostly a steep climb up the mountain I felt good and we reached the shelter about an hour after leaving Roaring Fork. A good tough day. The fire Vivian insisted upon was a nice way to end things.
At Deer Park shelter with Cindy and Tim. I got here at 1430. I could have gone on to Hot Springs but am happy to be here for the night. I think the foursome passed loudly by about an hour after I got here but they did not say hello. If they had I probably would have gone with them. But after long enough here I am feeling no urge to move on. The day was marked by long descents and modest ascents. In some ways a tougher day than yesterday without nearly the same amount of obvious eye candy.
I am of two minds about my stay at the shelter with Cindy and Tim. They are nice enough god-fearing sort of back woods/modern mix folks who at one moment can gripe about the lesbians, queers, and witchcraft in Asheville and the next talk, seemingly intelligently, about goings-on on the trail (I find myself wondering if they have hiked what they say). My guess; their politics and social views are far to the right of mine, but they are nice enough.
The hike into the outskirts of Hot Springs was easy enough. But the trail at the Pisgah National forest entrance was far from obvious to me. It took a long time to find my way to the right spot and then more time passed before I figured out the trail went left down Dixie highway following blaze emblems cemented into the sidewalk. I walked through town trying to find places like Elmers Hall and having almost no luck. I got a bite at the Smoky Mountain Diner and began to wait...for rooms to open up at Alpine Court (by this time I knew where Elmers was but the certainty of a comfy room and shower has drawn me here). As I waited, and wrote, Gary and Laura who Miss Janet had shuttled to Alan Gap on our way to dropping me at Davenport Gap came striding down the sidewalk. They were just finishing a slackpack from Lemon Gap about15.5 miles south of here - they did it in about 5 hours. we chatted, I saw their very humble cabin at the French Broad river cg and parted ways. Maybe I will see them later.
My quest for a really fine slab of steak in a restaurant in an AT trail town may be over. The meal I had at Paddlers Pub was pretty good, not the best mind you but certainly the best steak I have had on the trail.