This post is coming at ya with a little Appalachian Trail action. To clarify, these 600 words only cover about 40 miles of the 2,168.1 total.
If only this post was happening because work magically said it was okay to take 6 months off and go do some thru hike soul-searching. After doing the math I would have to work at my job for about 60 years before coming anywhere close to that kind of PTO.
While what we saw doesn’t come close to the amazing adventure of the entire length, the small section between Erwin TN, and Asheville NC is nothing short of the true wilderness experience that you imagine out on the AT.
The plan was to hike out and back from the Erwin TN on point. I had high hopes for my “last meal” aka the last consumed substances that weren’t prepackaged and heated in freezing temperatures. My dreams of egg whites and spinach frittatas were quickly crushed when we realized the only gourmet breakfast options in Erwin consisted of a McGriddle and dollar coffee; at least there was a bathroom! I felt like we were putting a little too much trust in good old McDs’ to power through two full days of covering ground, but it would have to do. If I am being honest my exercise addicted self was definitely most excited to spend my 9 to 5 trekking up and down the winding mountain hills.
This arctic looking scene was an on and off occurrence as the sun was constantly hidden and exposed by the thick impenetrable clouds. For a stretch the trail would be a crunchy icicle and then a spring time scene with soggy leaves all padding the ground.
There were a lot of things that made me nervous about this little adventure. Factors such as the fact that it was the dead of winter, sleeping exposed on a wood platform in the middle of no where, water and lack thereof, back woods bathroom situations, etc. While we were busy worrying about those things, we also were busy under estimating the physical challenge of hiking these altitudes.
After looking back at the trail guide we found out one of the peaks mid-way out on our route was only the second tallest on the entire trail. It was one of those hills you knew had to be winning that contest. The kind that makes a relatively in shape person question any physical fitness they thought they had going into it.
On the steepest climbs towards the end of the days we started doing that dazed and confused thing, where you straighten up limp armed and wonder if this is the end. Okay, maybe not the end but you definitely consider if getting air lifted home is an option.
It really explained the ability of true hikers and the level of endurance it takes to manage that degree of activity on a scale 100 times larger than our dinky day hikes.
Above is the Bald Head summit at about 5,600 ft. elevation, our second tallest climb of the trip. At this point you would be feeling pretty cold, like hands turning purple cold, but you would also start considering how amazingly gorgeous this world is. It was hard to believe that we were “only in Tennessee” seeing the kind of mountains you see in Outside Magazine.
Despite the fact that our legs were a special kind of sore, this taste of the trail was enough to catch the itch to do more. We survived the elements, filtered the water, and scared away night-time scavengers. Something about following that narrow path, where every section is something being seen for the first time, makes you want to do it everywhere you go. You feel like you are seeing sites worth seeing. There isn’t a price of admission, lines, parking meters, or herds of people. It was the perfect chance to get out there and do something new, as well as insanely challenging. While I never would have pictured myself atop a mountain ringing in the new year in the pitch black of the wilderness zipped up mummy style nose frozen in a sleeping bag, it was one of the absolute
most romantic best ways to celebrate the beginning of 2015.
…And next time an Asheville debrief…