Tenting to Walnut Mountain Shelter – 21.3 miles
I wake about 5:45 AM to the sound of rain on my tent. I snooze until my alarm. The rain stops by the time I am all packed up. It is a chilly morning, requiring rain gear and gloves. It’s a slow start to the day, climbing for about the first five miles and just moving slowly.
About noon things start to turn, the weather improves and my body starts feeling better. It is very nice, sunny with few clouds, but just cool enough to still wear fleece, tights, and gloves.
After noon, I go over Max Patch. It is a grassy bald with a spectacular 360 degree view of mountains as far as the eyes can see. It is absolutely amazing, even better than Wayah Bald. It is beautiful. A family is also up there and the woman asks to take my picture because she is excited to see a thru-hiker who has actually walked here from Georgia. After this, I continue on to the shelter.
When I arrive, I hang my wet tent so it can dry. The shelter is a little shabby, drafty. Cold air really comes shooting through the gap between the log wall and low roof, just above the platform. Due to some missing boards, there is a gap in the platform on either side of my pad, so hopefully I don’t roll to either side or I’ll fall between the boards and below the shelter! An entry or two in the shelter log mentions mice, but I’m sleeping here anyway. It’s cooled down quite a bit and it’s probably going to be a cooler night. I had wanted to get closer to Hot Springs, but I’ll just have to get started earlier tomorrow.
At the shelter I meet Longbow, Rock, and MC. Apparently Rock is a legend with the partying in town and the story behind his thru-hike. He had us rolling with laughter at some of his ridiculous stories.
One story was about his girlfriend’s dream of thru-hiking the AT. She had planned it for two years, bought all kinds of gear, multiple pieces of the same to compare and find the best, did research, etc. She brought Rock along after her parents had said to him, “You are going to let her go out there by herself!?” He was like, “Yeah,” because he certainly had no desire to go. Well, she brought him along. Out of spite and against her advice, he bought Bear Grylls gear (sleeping bag, backpack, etc), Ghostbuster and Batman socks, etc. at Walmart because she said he needed Smartwool, Gore-tex, yada yada. She thought the trail would help Rock to grow up and to be more responsible. Fast forward: she lasts ten days and goes home with blisters. And he’s the one who is still here, hiking to Maine! It’s a hilarious series of events. From the sound of it, things got wild once she went home! Although he had no desire to start this hike, he certainly has no desire to go home now. We tell him there is no way he can quit.
I am 13 miles to Hot Springs. I had wanted to have breakfast at the diner, but I’ll just get other stuff to eat since I’ll be there later in the day. I have a mail drop to get at the outfitters and then I hope to grab something to eat before passing through town.