On a side trip from our main hiking destination we headed to Allamuchy State Park for a quick day hike around a lake. The landscape changed quite frequently on the overly flat trail through the woods. The changes in landscape were a nice surprise that kept the otherwise normal trail interesting. I especially enjoyed the fern-filled section near the end of our trail. It feels like you are totally engulfed in the plants while standing off the side of the trail and the green overwhelms your vision.
Hiking on the Appalachian Trail, even for a short time, is something special. Knowing that it extends so far in either direction just makes it feel more… adventurous. Although I haven’t hiked it in very long distances, the sections I’ve gotten to do have been incredible and inspiring. Camping at an AT shelter and getting to mingle with those few, lucky thru hikers of the year is another experience that I treasure. Just rubbing shoulders and sharing stories with them makes me feel a little more a part of something I hope to accomplish myself.
Being in the woods and hiking is one of my favorite things for several reason, but I feel like I think better while I’m hiking. I can process my thoughts while feeling like I’m part of the natural world around me. I feel more in tune with my surroundings, and I notice things like this guy poking his head out of the water as I walked by. He posed for quite a while as I quietly crept around him for a better shot. When I decided to stand up to go to the other side he took his opportunity to dive to the safety of camouflage under the water.
After waking in the dark and driving the sinuous roads that lead through the mountains of the Olympic Range I found myself walking quickly up a steep path in the early morning light. The sun had yet to cross the peaks, and it was chilly for August. After some switchbacks and open trail walking I made it to my destination. The top of Hurricane Ridge is expansive and majestic. Jagged mountains surrounded me while rolling meadows lay at my feet. Olympic marmots whistled to each other while everything else was silent above the clouds as the sun showed its face and washed over me as I sat in awe for an hour or more taking in the incredible power of nature.
Hiking part of the AT in Virginia was a short but transformative experience. I didn’t quite get to do what I had hoped, but just being out there among the community of hikers and immersed in the lush nature of central Virginia was enough to show me that it’s something I really want to do. There is enough solitude and conversation to be had at any given point that it seems almost impossible that they coexist so easily. While I wish I’d done it already, I’ve regained my enthusiasm to thru hike in the not-so-distant future.
While in Georgia we hiked several short trails on the Appalachian Trail. Since Joanna had hiked the entire trail last year she knew all the best places to check out. Blood Mountain was a slightly challenging hike uphill to a beautiful view overlooking the endless mountains. It was nothing like her amazing accomplishment last year hiking 2,185.3 miles, but it was a great day for a hike, and we got to pass out some Kind bars to thru hikers, and she did a great job encouraging them to keep going all the way to Maine.
Back on the East Coast, and it really feels like it. The trails are what I remember along the Appalachian Trail. We stopped at Amicalola Falls, which is the Approach Trail to the AT. We didn’t hike the whole thing, but we went up to the top of the falls and back around. It’s a beautiful rushing flow that sprays out over the bridge while you look up at it. The dreaded stairs on the trail weren’t even that bad; maybe because we prepared ourselves and we didn’t have 30-pound backpacks on.
Hiking in Utah has plenty of rewarding views, and they’re often mixed with amazingly fun climbs. In Capitol Reef National Park we did what we could with the short time we had there, but that was a good amount. We hiked up to a wide canyon between two high walls that allowed us to explore several side canyons to climb up into. It was enough fun just playing in those, but the climb back out to the main trail was this great silhouette of rocks in front of the colorful sunset sky. We are so lucky to get to see these things regularly.
The last two days were spent in and around the canyons of southern Utah. Outside the national parks, there are tons of slot canyons that have been carved into the landscape over millennia of wind, sand, and water rushing through them. Peek-a-Boo Canyon and Spooky Gulch are two of my favorite slot canyons and they happen to part of one loop hike. This view is from above after I climbed up, stemming and using counter-pressure techniques that are a big part of why I love these canyons so much. They are basically a huge playground in nature, and they are some of the most beautiful landforms I have ever seen.
The hike to the Lonesome Lake Hut in the White Mountains was a long and strenuous one even though it was just over a mile and a half. The uphill climb mixed with the snow, getting used to the snowshoes, carrying big packs, and overheating in our clothes made it for a taxing learning experience. We were never too cold (except maybe my toes,) and it got dark before we reached our destination. Luckily we could see the lights of the hut as we got to the other side of the lake and could walk across. This is our exodus after sub-zero temperatures pushed us to our breaking point and we realized it was time to head back to lower altitudes.