April 20 - Deer Park Mountain Shelter

Before I get started on what was a great day, first want to tell Peg and Bruce I think of them every day. There are so many birds out here, flitting through the trees and calling out, I just know you two would like it immensely. Right now I hear no less than seven calls.

I got up earlier than normal knowing we have a lot of ground to cover. I suggested to Achin we split up, since his wife will be in Hot Springs in two days, and I don't want to slow him down in any way. He agrees, and since I'm ready, I head off on the Trail.

The first major stop is Max Patch Summit, 3.5 miles away and all up hill.  This place is amazing, hundreds possibly thousands of acres of grassland on top of a mountain. With the rain coming through last night to clear the air, not a cloud in the sky, and no trees to obstruct the view, you can see everywhere in every direction. That F.A.A. tower from the other day is just a small blip. One couple apparently camped there overnight, brilliant! Imagine the sunset.

I meet a young family, and they later tell me they are thru hiking and live in Maine so they're "going home the long way." All In, Mama Bear, Robin Hood, and Cartwheels (the latter, 7 years old, intends to do at least one a day to Maine), a really nice family, and I see them again at each of the following places today.

I get lunch around noon, 10 miles in, and a hiker at the shelter there says there's Trail Magic "just north of Bluff Mountain." Apparently it's ham and all the fixings for Easter, so I check my map and that's roughly within range of my 16 mile day. Make it to Bluff Mountain, where there's two Great Danes checking me out, and the people confirm the Magic but it's at Garenflo Gap, technically north of Bluff Mountain but four miles away and past my 16 mile target.

Well, there's a shelter at my 20 mile mark, so I push on for the Magic and arrive. About 25 people are there, and whereas I had visions of another church group sponsored event, this was put together by eight or so thrus from 2012. There is a ham and all the fixings, drinks, a raucous game of frisbee, and a pass-the-guitar jam. First hiker I see says he's been there for hours. One other is drinking home made wine and tells me its good because she can taste all the flavors. I grab a plate and a cold beer and just enjoy. Best Magic yet.

Can't stay long, so thank them and make for the shelter, arriving about 7 PM, a twelve hour day and my first 20-miler. I remember an about-my-age hiker saying on one of the first days that when he did his thru he didn't hike faster,  just found he could hike longer. Seems true.

It's a relatively warm evening, and drying out from last nights rain.  Tomorrow, a quick 3.2 mike walk to Hot Springs, North Carolina, a hiker friendly town.

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