Appalachian Trail in NC – Max Patch to Hot Springs Backpack – Day 2 – 4/12/15 – 9.5 Miles
After a quieter night than we typically experience in our suburban home where barred owls rule, Jim and I packed up our gear and set out for our morning hike into Hot Springs. Within a quarter mile we passed an excellent campsite. Ah well…
On our descent we also passed carpets of wildflowers spread up and down the side of Bluff Mountain and my progress was slowed significantly. Each specimen was more captivatingly perfect than the last.
Not to be confused with its cousin, squirrel corn
Some type of anemone, judging from foliage
Trilliums are ready to pop
Gaywings: the first time I’ve seen these flowers, and they were so tiny and close to the ground that I almost missed them. In fact, I couldn’t see them distinctly until I looked at the photo and searched online. [By the way, if you Google this, be sure to add “wildflower”.]
I kept an eye over my shoulder as Bluff Mountain got smaller yet still dominated the line of mountains. I wondered what it would feel like to hike southbound and see that peak looming.
Where are we? At Garenflo Gap. If our car was here we’d be done. But 6.6 miles to go.
Jim always seems to be patiently waiting for me. His pace is naturally faster than mine, but I don’t feel the push to keep up.
Deer Park Mountain Shelter, built on a former homesite near Gragg Gap, is .2 miles to the right of the trail but the campsite area is about 10 steps to the left. We took a real rest break there and put our feet up. A few dozen yards past it we noticed two headstones (former residents of the homesite?) for whom Gragg Gap are presumably named.
George W. Gragg “departed but not forgotten”
Eva Gragg “absent, not dead." Her headstone's death date is 17 years earlier, 1949, hand carved, perhaps by George?
The 1,200-foot descent to the town of Hot Springs was switch- backed but relentless, not Jim’s favorite kind of hiking, unkind to the knees and feet. Seeing the buildings through the trees was incentive to keep pounding.
The trail follows Bridge Street though the heart of Hot Springs and to our parked car. Although we didn’t see our young’un friends, the town was bustling with thru-hikers eating, resting and gearing up to get back on the trail. At Spring Creek Tavern I enjoyed possibly the best cheesesteak sandwich of my hiking career. As we ate, we overheard a table of thru-hikers ordering a round of mimosas to celebrate their progress and we quietly told our server to put them on our tab.
Remember, trail angels are everywhere.