Miles hiked today: 13
Miles hiked total: 255.9
Miles to go: 1929.4
Today started out pretty chilly, but still warmer than the previous mornings. Everyone ate breakfast around the unlit campfire and then Stylez, Wing It, and I hit the trail. We pretty much stayed together all day, which was nice. After spending a lot of time by myself in the Smokies, it’s nice to find a couple of people to hike with. They’re a bit faster on the uphills than I am, and I keep a faster pace on the downhills, so we all balance each other out.
It was incredibly windy as we hiked up Snowbird Mountain. It was straight up from the campsite, about 1400 feet, and the wind was whipping. As we approached the summit, we saw Wiki talking to a man, and at first it looked as if the man was camped out on the mountain, but as we got closer we realized that he was actually doing trail magic. He was giving away soda, water, and honey buns. He apparently does it every day as his job. I had a water and he started to make coffee, but it just got too cold to hang around any longer so I started hiking again before the coffee was ready.
While we were at the trail magic, True Story caught up with Wing It, Stylez, and me, so the four of us hiked through the grassy bald together, and then the guys took a side trail to explore an FAA tower while Stylez and I kept going to get out of the wind. We all regrouped a couple of miles later at Groundhog Creek Shelter for lunch. True Story got ahead of us on the hike down and was already there and eventually Blacksmith, Simba, Oliver and Twist, and Tigger showed up. I spent quite a bit of time there eating and resting, and then Stylez, Wing It, Blacksmith, and I pushed on. We had more uphill to do, and then some downhill before coming to what Wiki called “another Jacob’s ladder.”
It wasn’t as bad at Jacob’s ladder and we all powered through it. We all stopped to rest after the uphill and Wiki and Tigger caught up and had a quick snack with us. We didn’t linger long because we were all anxious to get to the top of Max Patch, a large grassy bald with stellar views that was once used for cattle grazing (it’s also an icon of the AT). As we were hiking up the trail, we came across a bunch of llamas just chilling right on the trail. After taking pictures, we actually had to step around them to keep going. We almost made it to the summit but then saw Simba and Twist napping in the sun. We decided to stop with them and eat something and relax.
The views were amazing and apparently the best we’ll have until we reach Connecticut. The sun was out, but it was still really windy, so after maybe 30 minutes we decided to keep going. When we got to the real summit, True Story was there. He apparently had been there for about 2 hours and was waiting for everyone to catch up. Oops! True Story, Twist, Simba, and Tigger are all staying at a campsite 2 miles up the trail tonight because they’re hoping to get into Hot Springs Friday night so that they can take 2 full Zero days on Saturday and Sunday.
I’m planning on taking a Zero day on Sunday and arriving in Hot Springs early Saturday morning, so I’m staying at the shelter tonight and will only be hiking 15 miles tomorrow and then a short 4 miles into Hot Springs Saturday morning. I’m so excited for my weekend off! My feet have been really sore lately and they’re ready for a break. I’m switching out my Merrells this weekend for my trail runners, and boy am I ready for the change! My Merrells were great to have in the cold weather, but my toes hit the front of the shoes on the downhills and my toenails are crying out in protest!
At the shelter tonight is Stylez, Wing It, Muffin Man, Boss, Wiki, and Blacksmith, as well as a hiker I just met tonight named Lotus.