I woke up this morning (at EIGHT AM on my DAY OFF, but no, no it’s fine) to the sound of leaf blowers. By the time I left my apartment, all the leaves that had been covering the courtyard for the last month so completely that I had not been able to tell whether I was walking on the grass or the sidewalk were pulled into neat little piles. It was heartbreaking.
Fall in East Tennessee is stunning but brief. I milked it for all it was worth and was still caught off guard when I looked up and saw only a few bright leaves left clinging to the tops of the trees. It is so fun to get to kick and crunch while you walk, but the downside is that those leaves aren’t on the trees anymore. They are busy getting kicked and crunched.
However, while there are still some particularly dedicated leaves on the trees, I will pretend fall is still in full swing and let you know about the most wonderful spot of land in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.
Max Patch is near Hot Springs, NC so it is a bit of a drive from Knoxville. Fortunately for us, I’m convinced it is also the most picturesque drive in all of America. I almost drove us off the ledge multiple times due to gawking (not proud of that, by the way) and we stopped for gazing and picture taking at almost every turn.
The beauty of Max Patch lies in the fact that is actually a patch. Apparently it used to be a place for farm animals to graze and at one point it was a landing strip for tiny little airplanes. Now, from my observation, it is used primarily as a backdrop for engagement photos. It’s that beautiful. Yes, there are amazing views all over the Smokie and Blue Ridge Mountains. You can hardly get on a highway without losing your breath at some point, let alone go on a hike in one of the parks. The draw of Max Patch is that you can walk and run and dance in the equivalent of a real housewife’s manicured backyard – just, this fictional person’s backyard happens to be miles and miles and miles of mountain views.
I can’t really classify this as a “hike” because, though I believe there are trails starting from the bottom of the mountain, my trusty ole GPS took us straight to the top. We did have to climb maybe ten minutes to get from the road to the top of the patch, and yes it was steep so we did stop once to catch our breath (I had half a pint of ice cream for dinner last night. Actually, I literally had a Little Debbie cake in my fanny pack while walking up the mountain. So no, you would probably not have to stop at all on the way up this embarrassingly short trail .) At the top, there is about one mile, flat loop to see 360 views of the mountain tops around you.
You will most likely say, “Wow,” a lot. If you’re trying to impress someone with your intellectual capacities, take them to a long, dry one-man play. Do not bring them to Max Patch. At Max Patch, all thoughts and words are washed away for awhile and you can’t do anything but look around you and say, “Wow,” because you are small and God is big and God made this beauty and God made you and God loves this beauty but He loves you more. Wow.
The leaves were vibrant and the views, breathtaking. However, it’s not just an autumn spot. Since it’s large and mowed, you could spend an entire summer day up there, playing frisbee, eating Little Debbies, and having incredibly deep conversations because if you look at a mountain long enough you will start thinking incredibly deep thoughts. It’s inevitable.
The Appalachian Trail also goes through Max Patch. So for the rest of my life if anyone asks, yes, I did totally hike the Appalachian Trail.
So if you have a free weekend during any time of the year, I suggest grabbing a person or two you particularly enjoy and heading up to relax on Max Patch. You should probably also find a dog to bring too. Dogs go very well with Max Patch.