recently i read the book wild by cheryl strayed… a memoir about a woman searching for a reset button on her life. she decided the way that she would do that was by walking the pacific crest trail, a wilderness trail that runs from southern california to the canadian border, through the sierra nevada mountains. and while she had been a fairly outdoorsy person growing up, she was in no way a couple of thousand miles hiker/trekker. however, she set off anyway, on her own, without any training, to hike the trail alone. crazy? yes. inspiring? totally.
but, hers isn’t the first long hiking, trekking story that i have read. years and years ago i picked up bill bryson’s a walk in the woods – his own account of his long walk… 2,200 miles to be exact… on the appalachian trail. i read bryson’s memoir because i grew up being near and criss-crossing the appalachian trail, so it made sense to me. and as i read it all those years ago, i found myself yearning to follow in his footsteps.
a map of the appalachian trail from 1974: covering part of the north carolina section. you can see hot springs there on the map. and the big river… that’s the french broad. the F M T W are marking food, motel, telephone, water availability.
look at this vintage 1974 awesomeness i found in my brother’s home. gaaaahhh.
ok. to continue with my bill bryson comments… i have not actually followed in his footsteps, but i have read others’ accounts of their own journey on the AT (appalachain trail), each one making my dreams wilder and my desire to walk from georgia to maine even stronger.
the AT is, as i’ve mentioned now, a 2,200 mile trail through the entire appalachain mountain range. it runs from northern georgia through north carolina, virginia, maryland, pennsylvania, new jersey, new york, connecticut, massachusettes, vermont, new hampshire, and ends at the top of mt. katahdin in maine. phew. i get exhausted just typing it all… and yet, i still have this urge to do it. to take off for 4 months (or however long it would take me) with my backpack, my gear, my camera, and a journal to walk through the woods. confronting nature, myself, and whatever else would pop up along the way. i’m not sure if i will ever do it, but it is something that stays in the back of my mind. as a possibility. not quite a bucket list item, but not not a bucket list item either. get my drift?
i actually think of the AT quite often, seeing as it passes right close to asheville, but my interest was piqued even more last weekend while i was camping in hot springs. you see, the AT passes right freaking through hot springs, crossing the french broad river, and continuing onward and upward toward maine. so, when i walked into the town of hot springs from my campsite, i was walking on the AT. cool, huh? in fact, lina and i got so into it, we walked from our tent on one side of town, through town, and then right on out of town, following the AT up and into the woods. we just had to. i even heard her say that she might want to try and walk the entire 2,200 miles ones day. now, tell me, how unbelievably amazing would that be?! walking the AT with my love!
since the AT passed right through the town of hot springs, they mark the trail on the sidewalks with the emblem in my photo below. how cool is that? so, if you are ever there, and you walk downtown, you’ve walked a teeny, tiny part of the AT. think of all of the people who have passed through there on foot? walking for freedom, for themselves, to heal their souls, for charity, to get back to nature… so amazing.
i mean, my heart skips a beat every time i see one of these signs…
the AT community (those who walk the trail) are a special community. most people walk by themselves or with one other person, but one always meets people along the way, walking in the same direction. sometimes walking together, or sometimes meeting up in the next little town. one thing i have learned is that hikers support in other in many ways, by leaving notes and other things are various points all along the trail. here, lina and i ran across 2 different walking sticks that hikers had left for others to pick up and use. i read of the same thing happening on the pacific crest trail (PCT) as well. a truly amazing community spirit.
the entire 2,200 miles is marked with these white dashes on trees. usually there is only one dash. when you see two, you know that you will be in for some tough terrain ahead.
standing on the trail. ahhhhh…. such excitement and humility.
i met a hiker headed towards hot springs. i am certain that he was so thankful to walk into the little town, just to see civilization again, refuel, rest, pick up a package at the tiny post office, and have a good, hot meal.
he did leave the trail in town, most likely headed to a little hostel. see him there in the photo below? yep. that’s the trail. i told you it goes right straight through the town. then it crosses the river and continues on up in those mountains in the background. my campsite lay just at the base of those mountains.
so, we will see if anything ever comes of my dream of hiking the entire AT. maybe i will, or maybe i won’t. who knows? what i do know is that i love the romance of it. i will eat up any books/memoirs/etc. that people write about it. and i will always, always find myself making time whenever i am in these mountains near asheville to take a few steps on it every now and then. what an amazing place to connect with nature, with others, + with one’s self.
here’s to journeying on in life…