Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day 24: Max Patch

March 31: When I woke up in the morning, the very first thing I did was turn on my smartphone and check if I could get a connection. I don’t normally do this, but there were some April Fool shenanigans that would start today and I wanted to make sure the scripts I set up on Atlas Quest and Walking 4 Fun were working as expected. I did get a connection, which surprised me a bit since I was in a ravine and I figured the mountains on each side of me would have blocked any signals, but I did get a weak signal. Walking 4 Fun was running smoothly, but I had a sudden panic attack when I realized there was a problem on Atlas Quest—a big one that was affecting pretty much everyone not logged into the website. I could see the errors that were logged and immediately knew what the problem was—but from my smartphone, I couldn’t fix it. Crap! This is bad!

Any guesses what this odd structure is for?
(Answer will be in the next photo!)

I thought about ways to get into the server to fix the problem and could only think of one option that would could get the problem fixed relatively quickly: Wassa. For those of you who don’t know who Wassa is, he’s the friendly, neighborhood webmaster that helps make sure AQ stays running when I’m not around. The problem for me, though, was that it was 7:00 in the morning, which meant it was 4:00 in the morning in San Jose where he lived, and I hated the idea of waking him up at such a god-awful hour. I’d be willing to let the bug sit for a few hours until he had a chance to wake up, but I figured I needed to call him to let him know about it since it only showed up if someone wasn’t logged in and he likely wouldn’t notice it until someone pointed it out.

But in a few hours, I couldn’t be certain if I’d still get a signal on my phone to call him. I felt bad, but I dialed his number hoping it would just go to voicemail and he’d get my message first thing upon waking up. Instead, after a few rings, I heard a groggy Wassa answer the phone. Dang it, why was he answering the phone at 4:00 in the morning?! Who does that?!

I apologized profusely for waking him up and explained the problem, and he told me no problem, he’d get on it. Wassa would save the day! (For all you AQ folks out there, you can thank him in the comments for his dedication to AQ for waking up at 4:00 in the morning to fix a problem I created!) It wasn’t until then I also saw posts about the art theme from the day before causing formatting problems which he also fixed before I even realized it was a problem. He saved the day twice! I’ve got to buy him a Superman cape for his next birthday. =)

With all that sorted out, I went back to my regular morning hiking routine of eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, changing clothes and packing up camp before hitting the trail.

It’s used for air traffic control! Who knew that such a small, strange building could hold the lives of hundreds or thousands of people in its grip!

Several hours later, I arrived at the summit of Max Patch—which, for historical reasons, might be of particular interest to those of you active on Atlas Quest as being one of the first if not the first letterbox in America. (I made a brief attempt at finding it, but no, I didn’t find it. I think the clues need some updating.)

The views from the top were great but the wind was so strong it could knock you over. Also, at the top, snow had returned to the trail. Or, to be more accurate, had yet to melt from the trail since it had been deposited several days before while I was in Gatlinburg. On the trail over all, most of the snow was, in fact, gone. The trail wasn’t covered at all, but a large strip of snow stretched across the top of the ridge. Between the wind chill and the snow effect, it was pretty darned cold at the top!

A sign at the top pointed to trail magic down at the parking lot off the side of the trail. It looked like it was a quarter-mile away, down a couple of hundred feet from the top, and far off near the parking lot, I saw several people milling around a picnic table. That must be the trail magic, I thought, but OMG—it was so far off trail and down a steep hill! I flip-flopped back and forth, trying to decide if it was worth it. The sign had said there was pizza and beer. The beer I didn’t really care about, but pizza sounded awfully good right now and finally won me over. I started down the mountain.

On the way down, I passed another person who obviously looked like a thru-hiker heading up the mountain, and I asked, “Is it worth it?!” over the wind. I didn’t know who he was at the time—it was the first time I’d met him—but I’d later learn his trailname was Disciple. “Yes, it’s totally worth it!” he assured me, taking another look back down at the parking lot.


I continued downwards finally arriving where the group of people welcome me to the trail magic circle. Another hiker I didn’t recognize was there—a woman named Rocky, as well as a guy whose name I now forget. The trail angels had bought pizza and kept it in one of those insulated bags delivery people use to keep the pizzas warm. By the time I arrived, the pizzas were lukewarm at best, but I wasn’t complaining. I’d take it! Gusts of wind still blew up to cause havoc, but it wasn’t anywhere near as strong or constant as it had been at the top of Max Patch. Instead of beer, I got a root beer to drink, and some candy that was available.

I spent a half hour or so chatting with the group, who liked to do a random act of trail magic just once each year. Usually they did it further up at the trail at Sams Gap but decided to try Max Patch this time instead, commenting that the views were a lot better for them, but the access for thru-hikers had a lot to be desired. It sounded like they’d never been to Max Patch before and hadn’t realized how far away the parking lot was away from the trail.

Late in the day, I pulled up to the Walnut Mountain Shelter where I intended to spend the night. A guy was in it who introduced himself as Rocky. Which confused me at first, since the woman I met at the trail magic had also told me her name was Rocky. And yep, as it turns out, they were both named Rocky! That must confuse things, although later I noticed in the shelter registers that the girl-Rocky had started signing her entries as Rocky Mountain High. She was actually at the water source for the shelter when I arrived and when she returned and I saw the two Rockies mere steps from each other, I worried if the world would implode. It didn’t, though, thank goodness!

Rocky Mountain High planned to continue on a ways before setting up camp, but Rocky and I were here for the night. He said something about reading a book about the quest for longitude—a book I had read years ago and our conversation fell into clocks and how mariners used the moons of Jupiter to help them calculate their longitude. Handy little things, those moons of Jupiter. They were the first objects in the sky that anyone with a telescope could see with their own two eyes that not everything revolves around the earth (or the sun, for that matter). They were also instrumental in first calculating the speed of light! Who knew they’d be so scientifically useful?!

Another hiker, Rise, showed up later in the evening and we all watched the sunset from a nearby bald, and it would just be the three of us at the shelter. We started talking about April Fools Day tomorrow, and I said, “Oh, that reminds me, should tell you guys… I sometimes have bad dreams and scream at the top of my lungs in the middle of the night. Just kick me awake and I’ll be fine.”

Considering that we had just been talking about April Fools Day and I started my joke with, “Oh, that reminds me…” I didn’t really think either of them would actually believe what I said. It was just a joke, but Rise didn’t make the connection and suddenly had a worried look on his face. “You do?” he asked me nervously.

“No, he’s joking,” Rocky told him.

“April Fool!” I told him, confirming it.

A look of relief swept his face, but I was amused. I imagined how disconcerting it really would be if someone in the shelter screamed at the top of their lungs in the middle of an otherwise quiet night. Maybe I really should do something like that in the middle of the night…


Trail magic ahead!!!

A line of snow still crossed the crest of Max Patch several days after the storm blew through.

View from the top of Max Patch.

The trail magic circle. (Rocky Mountain High is the girl in red standing on the right. Everyone else in the photo are the trail angels.)

View looking back at the summit of Max Patch.



Sunset from the bald near Walnut Mountain Shelter.


wassamatta_u said...

You seem to assume that I read these comments, let alone your blog. :)

Unknown said...

Haha, sorry - wassa's comment kinda made me laugh =) either way, thanks for keeping AQ up and running!

Unknown said...

Thanks wassa for all your hard work! Thanks Ryan for keeping us involved in your adventures.