Putting off the dream of thru-hiking for at least another year
It's early March and the thru-hikers are flocking to the Appalachian Trail, and once again - for yet another spring - I can't help but be jealous of them. People post in Facebook groups and forum threads that I follow: some with trepidation before their journey, some with elation over some discovery, and some desperate for an ounce of encouragement after confronting setbacks or difficulty or fear.
Over the holidays I somehow managed to convince my dad that I totally needed a GoPro. I carried the GoPro on the recent Grayson Highlands backpacking trip. I loved the photo results from that post, and I finally got around to playing with some of the video. So, without further ado: here's a video!
There's a reason why hikers get wide-eyed and eager when they hear "Grayson Highlands." There's a reason why those who have been before return time and again, and why those who haven't been are encouraged to go as soon as they can. Ponies! Balds! Easy hiking! PONIES!
Gatlinburg was crazy. Imagine Disney World covered in camo, $6 parking and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. But my stomach was empty and my camera batteries were dead and I just wanted a quick recharge at a fast food place where I wouldn’t bother anyone or be bothered, so I ventured down from a long sunset at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park through the dark twisting mountain path into the bright lights of the valley. A gas station and big sign proclaiming “GATLINBURG: Gateway to the Smoky Mountains” bedazzled me when I emerged from the forest and it took me several minutes to get my wits together.
If there were a good reason why bestselling hiking memoirs don’t turn into great movies, it should be that in novels the protagonist’s internal transformation and growth is readily portrayed through narrative, while films struggle to show these internal changes. It should be that the protagonist’s venture out of their comfort zone and into the unknown and then back again as a transformed character is limited in how it is portrayed, either as changes in their actions or via subtle visual changes – a slow thinning of the waistline, tanner skin, scars and bruises from the rough road, and the powerful resolve and acuity visible in a face after hours on the hard trail. These should be the challenges – portraying the narrative without incessant, droning voice-over.
My first solo hike - from Rock Gap to Wayah Shelter and back on the Appalachian Trail - was a search for solitude and the perfect quiet campsite.