I was born three hours from the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT). As a child, my father had us frequently in the Blue Ridge Mountains and hiking, on or near the AT. The trail became more and more alluring to me over time. I've never made the choice in my life to quit everything, and thru-hike the entire AT, but I've had the great privilege to enjoy numerous sections on the trail alone and with friends and family.
My favorite day on the AT was in Maine. We were fortunate to secure an entry into Baxter State Park and hike up the northern terminus of the AT and Mount Katahdin. In the pouring rain my son and I hit the trail which includes some scrambling.
The clouds broke at the top and we enjoyed great views and a great moment on the iconic mountain. Just seeing the Katahdin sign on the summit stirred my spirit and it was great to share it with my son.
A few months later, he and I would stand on the southern terminus with a day hike from Amicalola Falls.
I would hike the southern terminus trail again with my wife the next year during a long winter weekend in the Blue Ridge.
In 2016 I did a portion of the trail with friends that cuts through the Smokey Mountain National Park. Clingman's Dome marks the highest elevation on the AT and we covered a portion gong toward Davenport Gap. It is a spectacular portion of the AT in this area. The massive trees and mounds of green moss deep deep under the canopy feels as if you have entered a prehistoric age. It's hard to believe that the area was nearly stripped up every tree post Civil War.
My first time to hike the AT in Virginia was on a solo trip to McAfee Knob and through Shenandoah National Park. It was my first time alone on the trail and it would be a mountain top experience weekend for me.
Arriving at McAfee Knob, the most iconic point on the trail, I was fortunate to have some time alone before more hikers arrived. Surprisingly, a few years later and back at McAfee with Darrin Kirby, we would have the spot to ourselves for an impressive sunset.
My weekend alone in the Shenandoah included a safe encounter with a large boar bear and later a mom and her cubs. Shenandoah National Park does not offer the same amount of solitude, but the occasional views beyond the trees are breathtaking.
From Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine I've relished walking the ground so many have trekked before. It becomes a shared experience and a great conversation as others light up when sharing about their time on the trail.
If you can, make time to walk a portion of the AT and share in the experience of Appalachia.