Forced ourselves to wake up at 5 in the morning to watch the sunrise even after driving 10+ hours the day before and barely getting enough sleep. We drove up to Clingmans Dome which is the highest point in the Smoky’s at 6,600 feet. This was the sight that greeted us a few minutes after we walked up to the tower view deck. The clouds and the fog made the scene all the more dramatic and magnificent.
for those of you who don’t know, I hiked the Appalachian Trail from June 3rd to November 10th, crossing though 14 states Maine to Georgia and over 2,000 miles. I’m coming to terms with what it did to me mentally, and it did a lot. the trail changed me, living in the woods for 5 months and one week is a life changing experience that i can’t describe but i will say it was the most wonderful thing i have ever done. it was hard and painful and i learned that not everything has to be fun to be worth doing. i met the most amazing people, who let me stay in their homes even though i was a complete stranger, the trail maintainers who do grueling labor to make what i did possible, the trail angels who left water when there wasn’t a water source for miles and miles, but most importantly i made amazing friends i never thought i would. these friends knew me better then anyone else, they knew my rawest form, a person who was tired (i mean a person who hiked 25 miles up and down massive mountains all day, all WEEK!) and so mentally drained they couldn’t even hold a conversation. becoming aware that there are still great people on the world is truly a gift, i feel as though i have a more positive outlook on life. i feel as though i have a deeper understanding of myself and i have grown more than i ever though possible in a 5 month span. i’m not sure how the trail changes you, but it does. i’ve realized that i truly enjoy pushing myself to my breaking point and want to continue to push that threshold. i feel as though i’m a machine and unstoppable. i know the vast majority of you all can’t relate to any of this but i felt the need to share some of this experience. the feeling of being a total badass, and doing whatever the fuck you want. i was making my own decisions, waking up and 3:30am to hike in the pitch back darkness in the smokie mountains to watch the sunrise on halloween, to see if i can do a 26 mile day, the thrill of hitchhiking for the first time, staying up to stare at the beautiful stars in the Vermont wilderness, carrying two boxes of wine to get drunk at a campsite only to wake up and hike 18 miles in the pouring rain, seeing your first bear in the wild, summiting a mountain in a lighting storm not knowing wether or not you’re going to get struck by lighting and die. it was all wonderful. some of it was painful and scary. but it was all worth it, and i want to continue to do it. i have discovered that i want to live for experience and nothing else. i don’t want to be tied down by some stupid boy who makes me sad. i want to see the world and embrace ever given opportunity. i’m going too.
Foggy autumn morning in Cataloochee Valley. Located in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cataloochee is a peaceful mountain valley surrounded by 6000-foot peaks. It’s a great place to see wildlife, like the bulk elk pictured here. In 2001, elk were released in Cataloochee Valley. Today the herd has now surpassed an estimated 400 animals. Photo courtesy of Brian Simpson.