AT Day 018: Tuesday April 25, 2023

Mile 246.5 + 21 miles /33.2 km

Total Distance Hiked:  267.5 miles / 430.5 km

Snowbird Mountain – Deep Gap – Brown Gap Spring – Max Patch – Roaring Fork – Lemon Gap – Walnut Mountain – Kale Gap – Catnap Gap – Phils Gap – Bluff Mountain – Camp

A: 4700 ft/ 1433 m ~ D: 6185ft/ 1885 m

We were camped not far from another tent which was set up when we arrived last night. Muffled noise was coming from the tent so we camped a fair distance away. Sometime through the night Hammer was woken by a loud yell coming from their direction. Startling, but it did not continue so he thought it was probably a bad dream. I’m glad I didn’t hear it, it would have kept me awake for hours. 

Last year this section of trail was closed due to bear activity. So far in 17 days we’ve seen only one bear scat on trail. So surprising for a trail that is reported to have a high probability of a bear encounter. 

Sunrise revealed clear skies and hardly any wind. It was cold but not freezing like yesterday. It was delightful to break camp and get on our way just after 7am.  The suns rays  flickered over the flower lined slopes. Birds were singing and a distant woodpecker made a rhythmic sound which reminded me of gentle snoring. 

It was such a beautiful morning, a real walk in the park. Hammer was the Pink Lady Slipper orchid spotter this morning, spotting four single flowers including one that was simply glowing in the sunshine.  I spotted another much smaller and  less conspicuous orchid.  The light and the flower lined slopes were catching my eye. I stopped so many times to take photos we were making really slow progress. 

We have seen no other hikers all morning. Just before going up Max Patch grassy bald we met a section hiker whose trail name was ‘Mountain Doctor’ – he hiked the full trail last year and this year will be doing some trail magic up ahead. Do hope we meet him again. 

Around lunchtime we started the climb of Max Patch mountain, a mile and a half long walk though a grassy bald. The views from the top were simply breathtaking. Distant hillsides covered in red, orange brown and green blooming trees. And chain of blue ridges beyond that in just about all directions.  The weather could not have been better for going over the bald, sunny without too much wind. 

After such a stunning highlight, we were a bit deflated for the following section. A couple of miles winding our way up and down and around Roaring Fork, crossing it several times on really cute rustic bridges.  

It was a real treat to emerge from the waterways at Lemon Gap and find our first dead-set awesome trail magic. It looked amazing. Our host was Matt whose trail name is ‘Midnight Rider’ which he got on the PCT in 2020. While he made us some freshly fried apple fritters we learnt a little bit about him. He was up until fairly recently a Washington DC resident. After his spouse died he hiked the PCT as a way of healing his grief. What he found has changed his life. He has now moved to a small property not far from here and is doing trail magic as a way of staying connected with the hiking community. He used to be an interior designer in DC which made perfect sense of his amazing Flying Fritter van. I’ll be dreaming of the crispy fried, icing sugar covered delights for days. 

From Lemon Gap we had a long climb out up to Bluff Mountain. Just like yesterday afternoon we were powered by fat and sugar for most of the late afternoon hiking. By late afternoon, the birds were quitened, there was hardly any wind and we had the most peaceful couple of hours hiking towards Garenflo Gap. We stopped about a mile short of the Gap, as we came across a lovely flat camp spot just a little way off the trail.  I’m writing this as it’s about to get dark,  we are lying warm in our sleeping bags under a forest canopy, I can feel my legs vibrating with tiredness. It was a very good day.