When hiking at Catcoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, I felt like everything was easy. There were some rocky paths and steeper climbs, but I was just enjoying it so much that I didn’t notice the difficulty of the terrain or the 8 miles we walked. The things I noticed were the beautiful scenery, the great weather, and having good conversations with a friend. It’s easier to notice all the good things when you’re in a better mood, and I noticed these really cool flowers once we returned to the trailhead after a great hike.
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.
A welcome cool breeze blows over the raised platform overlooking the mountains of northwest New Jersey just before sunrise on a Tuesday morning. The clouds dance in the sun’s pastel painting, illuminating the rolling hills in a soft glow. It doesn’t feel like the state known for farmland and suburban sprawl. It feels lonesome in a good way. The morning has given me energy that seems to only come with the joy of nature’s beauty and its unique scenery. At this point it feels like I could do anything.
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.
I’ve grown accustomed to leaving New Jersey at the start of summer, and, even though it hasn’t been too long since my last visit to the southwest, it get harder every time I return. The red rocks of southern Utah remain the place I desire most often, and my plans to return have already begun to materialize. The next couple of months have already planned themselves out, and then it’s time to go back to where the sun is hot and the humidity is not. It might be a long summer on the East Coast, but sooner than I think I’ll be back among the landscapes of the desert.
The dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park are constantly changing. The sinuous lines that weave to the summits of these moving mountains of tiny granules are in perpetual motion though they seem to be a hard geological feature from afar. When you step on the line it dissolves beneath your feet. The screen of blowing sand from the tops of the dunes is blinding and rough while walking along the ridge. After a couple hours walking here everything is sandy including teeth, leaving you spitting small rocks for the rest of the day.
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.
One morning last year I woke up in an AT shelter in North Jersey before sunrise and then had a transcendent morning of hiking through High Point State Park as the sky changed colors all around me. From the vantage point higher than anything in New Jersey I could see rolling mountains all around and a sky bigger than I knew New Jersey ever had. Watching from the overlook tower while the cool morning breeze dried the sweat on my face, I was involuntarily smiling the whole time. It was one of my favorite moments.