The highlight of the day wasn’t actually Max Patch but almost getting bit in the butt by a rattlesnake. The shelter where I stayed last night did not have a privy so as soon as I left in the morning I had to find a place to dig a cat hole. I quickly found a place, dug my hole, did my business, cleaned up, pulled on my pack and was ready to leave when I heard a noise. At first I thought the noise was squirrels but it was too slow. Then I thought “maybe that’s a rattlesnake” but it was too fast. A quick scan of the area revealed a timber rattler coiled about four feet from where I did my business. Why he waited until I got my pack back on and was ready to leave I have no idea but I’m glad he didn’t bite me in the butt.
The morning was very cool and I quickly made it down to Davenport Gap and cross the Pigeon River and Interstate 40. The Standing Bear Hostel was about a mile up the trail and it didn’t take long at all to get there. It’s a very neat campus with all sorts of little buildings decorated and lots of stonework and is very cute. I was just there to get some food and alcohol for the stove and be off again. The selection of resupply items was pretty thin but I found a few things to tide me over for the afternoon. I paid the owner and was on my way. I had to climb about 2500 feet up to Snowbird Mountain. The Coke and the chocolate milk that I just drank should help fuel my body for the climb. And it did just that. The climb took close to 2 hours but I was up on Snowbird Mountain in the beautiful warm sun and sprawled out on the grass field to have my lunch.
Where the temperature in the forest seemed like it was in the ’50s here in the sun it seemed like it was getting close to 80. It was glorious. I sat in the sun eating my lunch for about 30 minutes and got all my damp clothes dried out in the sun.
Snowbird Mountain is memorable to me because in 1989 I camped on top of the mountain in a very bad thunderstorm and everything got totally soaking wet. The FAA tower itself looks the same but the mountainside around it all looks different now.
The rest of the day was a lot of up and down climbing. Someone had mentioned that the section was 8,000 feet of climbing and now I believe them. I realized shortly after lunch that I would be arriving at Max Patch about 6:00. The thought of camping out on top of Max Patch was very intriguing so I thought I better try to make it there, but with the up and down climbing it was a little slower than I expected. Luckily I did manage to get there about 6:15.
When I arrived at the peak it was very windy and very, very cold. There were about half a dozen tents, possibly more, already on top of the mountain. There were a lot of clouds obstructing the sunset. It was pretty but the combination of clouds and the crowds up at the top made me decide not to camp up top and keep going down into the forest where it would be much warmer.
I walked a little over a mile further to the next shelter trying to look for tenting spots along the way but nothing was suitable. I went ahead and pulled over at the shelter with the intent of setting up the hammock and it was a good choice because when I arrived there was someone who would set up their tent inside the shelter.
I set up my hammock then made dinner hung my food on the bear cables and now I’m ready for sleep. It is not terribly cold here and I hope it doesn’t get much colder in the middle of the night. I have about 19 miles to Hot Springs and I’m hoping to try to make it before dark so I will get up early and try to leave before sunrise.