In Two Photographs, What is the Appalachian Trail?

What is the Appalachian Trail in two photos:

 

The Appalachian Trail is all about the people. Every year, thousands of hopeful thru-hikers flock to the southern terminus of the AT to test their mettle against the brutal ups and downs of life in the Appalachian Mountains. Most of us begin alone before finding what we call our “trail families.” In this photo are Finch, Mountain Goat, and My Shadow who are cuddle together in the corner of a shelter enjoying each others comanionship and warmth as they prepare to remove their jackets and face a cold days hike. I had the great pleasure to hike with these girls for roughly two months.

While the first photo illustrates the warmth and comfort of friends on the trail, this photo displays the trails darker side. It is one of my favorite photographs for this reason. A lone hiker traverses an exposed bald on a dark and gloomy day. The trail tests us in many ways often bringing out our deepest and darkest secrets. On the Appalachian Trail (or any grand adventure) we are forced to face our demons. It is these thoughts we battle more than the mountains or rough terrain. The trail tests the mettle of our minds way more than that of our bodies. Even when we physically hurt, which is often, it is our minds that overcome the pain pushing us ever onward.

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Day 27: Max Patch Sunrise and a Skunk; Maybe

Appalachian Trail: Day #27

Max Patch Summit –> Deer Park Mountain Shelter: 16.6 miles

Total AT miles: 270.5

The decision to camp on Max Patch was a good one and a moment I’ll remember for a long time. I may have been a bit tired the next day – Me and Goat stayed up staring at the stars long after the sun had set and I woke the group at 6am for sunrise – but it was worth the crankiness. We see far too few sunrises and even fewer as epic as this.

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Tent city atop Max Patch.

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Maria enjoying the sunrise from her front porch.

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Dr. Kool-Aid and My Shadow soaking in the view as well.

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Finch and Mountain Goat enjoying Hot Chockey at sunrise. Talk about happy campers!

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Mountain Goat and finch enjoying the view.
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They got a kick out of me running around and rolling on the ground trying to capture the moment.
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My oatmeal breakfast with honey!

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Sawyer water filter are AWESOME. Their bags, not so much. My Shadow had this one for only a couple weeks before it sprung enough leaks to sink the Titanic.
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Always in the mood for trail magic!
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Chalk on a shelter. Love it.
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A mailbox for the trail register.
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Mountain Goat walking a dead log leaning against a tree like a tight rope.

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Nightly dinner in the jet boil.
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A baby skunk?
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I’m not entirely sure. It came running into camp with no fear of us. Luckily it posed no problems nor did it spray me (if it was, in fact, a skunk) as I took it’s picture.

Day 16: Another Day in the Woods

Day #16

Sassafras Gap Shelter –>Cable Gap Shelter

15.2 miles

159.2 Total AT miles

Sometimes, I’m just not sure what to say. We wake in the morning and we eat. We pack camp and we eat some more. We hike. We snack while we hike. We eat lunch on top of mountains and filter water flowing right out of the earth to drink. We eat more. Some of us drink coffee. Lots of coffee with enough to share.

We eat first dinner then we set up camp. We sit around fires or huddle beneath overhangs of shelters to stay out of the rain. We eat second dinner and we hang our food in trees to be safe from bears but more often mice. We goof around and share stories. We retrieve our bear bags to eat a third dinner; only sometimes, you know, when the pain in the belly outweighs that of the legs. We sleep. We sleep a lot. Sometimes 12 hours or more.

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Campsite atop Cheoah Bald just past the shelter. We planned to camp here but it was late and getting cold. A good decision.
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Descending into Stecoah Gap.
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Canuck preparing ramen noodles for lunch.
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Everyone is resting before tackling Jacobs Ladder.
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Mr. Kool-Aid letting the blood flow from his legs.
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A garbage can!!!! Never in my life have I been so excited to see one of these.
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The trail family fueling up before the climb. Cling mans Dome, the highest point of the AT is visible to the left.

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Empty, leafless forests
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Owl checking the distance to the next water and shelter.
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Prayer flags in a shelter.
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Dude who’s name I forgot trying to sweep out the shelter. His efforts are in vain as the wind blows the dust right back in.
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Rattle snake on trail! I didn’t see it though 😦
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Canuck, Owl, and I hiking fast to avoid the rain.
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Lots of up and down today.

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Dude, where’s the trail? It gets pretty rough at times. A highway overall though…
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Cool Dad putting on the rain pants as the rain begins to fall.
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A broken tree with the white blaze.
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Down and down we go.
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Owl hiking on through the rain.
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GGGRrraaaaa!!!!!
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Faster Owl! It’s raining!
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Decorating a journal.
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The floor in front of the shelter. Dinner time!