My first ever camping experience was the first night of a fourteen day backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail. The cliché says, “go big or go home” and something in me took this very literally. I had no experience to suggest that I would enjoy this excursion or camping or even hiking for days on end with a hefty backpack to schlepp up mountains.
I don’t know what I expected, I just felt this deep need in the core of my being to get away and escape to a simpler way of life. I desperately craved fresh air and some time to clear my head.
I suspect the primary contributing factor to my seemingly rash decision was the result of my day-hiking a brief section of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smokies when I was 10 years old. I remember the smell of the mountain air and the shadows cast from storm clouds over blue-shaded peaks with sunbeams streaming through. The Appalachian Trail was about a foot wide and very crowded. I don’t remember how far we walked but my history classes imprinted in me the notion that small actions, such as a mere step, can leave eternal marks on history and mankind. There is an eternal piece of my ten-year-old self, bewitched and enchanted by the idea of wilderness. This piece of self is the base of who I have become and how my relationship with wilderness has grown over the years.
This fourteen day backpacking adventure was a class offered by my university called “Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail.” It was a Philosophy and Religious Studies course designed to re-create on a lesser scale historic pilgrimages to Mecca or the Tomb of St. James via the Camino de Santiago.
The first night, we camped by a creek near Kincora Hostel, a short hike from Laurel Falls in Dennis Cove, Tennessee. It was peaceful and exciting, mostly a bonding experience for us. Few of the students knew one another so we made small talk, walked up to the hostel to meet the thru-hikers, and made dinner around a campfire. We got an early start the next day to wake up, backpack ten miles to our next campsite on Watauga Lake. My legs burned from climbing with the weight of my pack despite months of preparation and training.
Two days later I was sitting atop a boulder on another mountain that directly faced the ones I had just climbed. I had never seen what accomplishment looked like on such a grand scale. I sat there in the amethyst glow of sunset, sipping warm rum from my camp cup, enjoying the sensation of my heart feeling lighter, happier, and more full than ever before.
Sitting on top of this mountain, that is where I truly began. That moment, my love for outdoor adventure solidified and every trip I have since taken has been singularly inspired by that single moment.
Welcome to my blog & I look forward to sharing this journey with you! Please introduce yourself in the comments below. I would love to know: what is your origin moment that has inspired your love of the outdoors?