Yes, I know. "Max Patch" is like the greatest cowboy name ever and I can assure you I have adopted it as my nom de plume in several online fora...but no, it is not a person. It is a place. And it is a magnificent place, the Tuolumne Meadows of the East Coast.
At one of the highest points of the Appalachian Trail, the path opens out of the forest into a seventy-something-acre sunny meadow high atop a mountain. Driving there has some challenges: all the access roads are gravelly and steep and so curvy I'm fairly sure I drove up the highway equivalent of a wine-opener. And then you arrive and there's a parking lot! You park and you can peek up the hill and get a sense of what is about to happen but the trail forces you through a quarter mile of grubby, scrubby boredom and just when you're about to say "fuck this" the brush disappears and suddenly, you're Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and I mean it: everybody twirls. Children, old ladies, big butch hiker guys. Twirling around in the meadow, still full of wildflowers, even in October. The hills are alive. A complete 360-degree view of the Smokey Mountains, you twirl and twirl and twirl and the air is so crisp and clear and the sky is so ridiculously blue and you feel like you're on the very top of the earth. The pictures make a circle, if you look closely.
It's so spectacular you actually laugh out loud and say "are you kidding?" Luckily, I had my wildflower book with me, so I can tell you that there were some purples and some whites and some very rare yellows.
A friend who hiked the AT tells me that Max Patch is a tremendous psychological landmark: you get out of the woods for it. He also told me you can camp there, which was not clear at all to me, so now I am hot to go back. In leiderhosen.