WHERE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO VISIT ON YOUR PLANET?

My next trip will probably be the Benton McKaye Trail after I finish up working for a hostel this summer.

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After nearly a month of not getting to do any hiking, I decided to head up to the AT today to go up to Rocky Top. Since I was going to be doing a loop hike, I had decided to take the longer, less steep route up to the AT, but at the very last second I decided to change my route and take the steeper, yet shorter, option to the top.

I did my first hike ever on the Anthony Creek Trail, passing a troop of boy scouts carrying entirely too much gear for only hiking 3 miles in. The trail was wet, muddy, and eroded much like all the horse trails in this area of the park, but I was pleasantly surprised when I turned to climb up Bote Mountain Trail and found ice and snow on the ground. Some of the drifts in the shade were more than a foot deep still, despite the warm temperatures in the valley!

When I got to the AT in the sunshine I felt great. I quickly began to see beautiful views and got to take my lunch break with the view above. From where I was sitting, you can see Fontana Lake and even the Shuckstack fire tower off in the distance. The sunshine was warm and there was a very minimal breeze making it a beautiful place to sit. The silence was near-deafening and it was definitely what I needed to recharge my batteries.

I continued my hike along the AT going south to the Russell Field Shelter. I wrote a log book entry about my reflections on being a thru hiker and wished all the 2013ers reading a good trip. I was really sad I didn’t run into any thru hikers because, even though it is still quite early, NoBo’s are already coming through. I only passed one other hiker on the way down, which was quick and very scenic with the snow melt making for pretty cascades the entire way down.

It’s amazing to me how a quick 15-mile day can make all the difference you need. Being outside and being unplugged for the day sure helped clear my head. As many of you know, I’ve been in quite the rut lately and pretty down so being out in the sunshine on the trail that changed my life in so many ways was all the therapy I needed.

Other than the day I summited Katahdin, this was my absolute favorite day on the trail.  We woke up at the Horn Pond Shelter and leapfrogged with Chucky the Fish all day long.  The entire day was incredibly scenic and ended with us camping on a beautiful lake. Great trail memories. 

I spent last weekend at the Northern Ruck in Bluemont, VA.  The snow was beautiful, the trail running was fun, and the company of former thru hikers and hikers-to-be was the greatest I’ve had in a long time. 

The food at The Ruck couldn’t be beat!  There was a wide array of dishes, from Indian to vegetarian to BBQ pork.  I can’t even get into how many delicious desserts there were!  If there’s one thing hikers like more than anything else, it’s food, and former hikers sure know how to throw a feast.

A good time was had by all and I’m looking forward to the next gathering ALDHA throws. The photos above are of Bears Den Trail Center, in the middle of the infamous VA Roller Coaster section of trail, and a photo on Sunday morning of NoKey, Rocket, Testament, and me having some coffee and saying our goodbyes.  

A pretty gift from a woman who will be hiking SoBo this year. She followed my blog and made this for me after I completed the trail. Ive been told it has glow-in-the dark components, but I think it needs some sunlight first 🙂

Reunited and it feels so good!  My 32-mile round-trip weekend hike to TriCorner Knob, 1-12 and 1-13-13. 

I took this photo from Frozen Head Natural Area in Wartburg, TN on 1-5-13. The valley below shows the town of Coalfield.

Even though I’m not feeling very Christmas-y, I wanted to wish all of you a happy holiday season and a Happy and joyous New Year.  I learned this year what it’s like to have true friends and what it’s like to truly need people in your life.  I’m so glad to call all of you my friends. 

Our thank you cards are finally here and today I’m starting on sending out the first batch.  When I first started my list, I had the names of the hostels and the super nice and friendly hotels listed.  My list continued to grow though, to people we’d met along the trail who begged for Katahdin photos, to my neighbors who took care of my dog, to co-workers who went out of their way to help me keep my job… It’s nice to be reminded I have so much to be thankful for as we go into the holiday season.  I’m usually rather jaded this time of year, but this year I’m just happy to have made so many new friends and been treated so well by total strangers.  If you’re reading this blog, thank you for all your support and friendship during my hike.  It was the most incredible experience of my life and I’ll always carry it with me.