Gorgeous views, an incredible sunset, delicious breakfast burritos - all with a group of friends, new and old, brought together for one night by a mutual love for community and the outdoors. Sounds perfect, right? It was pretty dang close!
Right off of the Appalachian Trail, Max Patch has hands down one of the most gorgeous 360 degree views of the Smoky Mountains. You have the option to hike or drive in, each route being very accessible and well-marked. If driving, there is parking available at the bottom of the grassy summit, with a short yet tiring walk to the top. But every second of that cardio-inducing incline is worth it. I found myself wishing I could walk backwards uphill just so I wouldn’t miss a second of the endless mountain views around me. After taking in the picturesque view literally surrounding me on all sides, I realized something just as wonderful as the scenery was awaiting at the top— a group of friends and strangers sharing meals, drinks, stories and laughs. And what a welcoming group it was! As the sun began to go down, we all migrated to the highest part of the bald. Together we got to watch, and try to capture in endless photographs, arguably one of the most stunning sunsets in the southeast. There is really nothing like enjoying a camp meal in your sleeping bag surrounded by good people as the sky changes from one gorgeous color to the next. Night began to fall and we all headed back to the fire for warmth and good conversation. Although quite windy, the star gazing was unbelievable.
In the morning as I unzipped my tent, I was greeted by rays of warm sunshine peeking over the vast hills, with the smell of breakfast burritos cooking in The Landmark Project tent (lovingly referred to as the space station- if you ever see it, you’ll know why). After finding one of the dogs that wandered off during breakfast and a few fun group photos, we all broke down our campsites and said our goodbyes. While some of us headed back home, others off for a day in Asheville, and the ones that couldn’t get quite enough of that perfect weather and lush green forest set out for a day-hike on the AT, we all left with full bellies, new friends, and some pretty magical memories. I have to admit, I have always been a little skeptical of the whole “Instagram meet up” idea, but this trip squashed my doubts and proved that if done with a good attitude, an open-mind, and in my opinion, while in the great outdoors, it is truly an awesome way to meet quality, like-minded human beings. I cannot wait for the next one!
-Jennifer Hall @jenkhall