Same Trail, New Adventure Partners
Hiking (Part of) the Appalachian Trail
By Lenore Alexander
(After the hike, packs not pictured)
This past week I drove back to my home state of Georgia for a quality sibling bonding experience – a three-day backpacking trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although I’ve now done this exact hike six times, it never gets old – the isolated winding paths, green tunnels of Rhododendron, freezing waterfall, and powerful river leave me in awe every year.
This time around though, my younger brother and dog joined me. Hiking with Gracie (one of my dogs) was an entirely different experience. Though relatively well-trained, her hunting instincts and desire to greet every person on the trail left my brother and me whistling until we heard her jingle, bounding back towards us, tongue happily hanging off to the side. Her visible happiness and general excitement were contagious and left Nolan and I laughing at her antics. Now however, after hiking and running around for the past few days, she has spent most of today resting on the couch.
Our pack of eager travellers started our 18-mile out and back route by ascending up Springer Mountain, the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail, and ended our hike just past the Toccoa River Footbridge on GA-60/Morganton Hwy, where my sister kindly picked us up. Even in the rain, we had fun and stayed safe under our tent borrowed from Outdoor Adventures. 🙂
NOTE: If you are setting up a tent in the rain, really make sure all the sides (not just corners!) are taut and staked out properly, with each stake inserted at a 45-degree angle to the ground, away from the tent. Ensure that your tent footprint has its shiny side up (there’s a shiny side and a dull side to the seam) to best repel water and keep you dry. Also look up and around for any skeptical branches or widowmakers that could fall during a storm – be sure to set up your tent away from those dangers in a clear, flat area.
Hiking in the time of COVID-19, my brother and I made sure to wear our face coverings whenever other people were near and readily stepped off to the side of the trail to allow others to pass. Thankfully, the vast majority of the trail was lightly trafficked, with the only exceptions near the two water features. It was encouraging to see other people outside enjoying the trail but disheartening to see so few others wearing masks or face coverings while hiking (so please be safe when going hiking on public land!). Along with all of this other foot traffic also came trash. In just those few short days on the trail, we collected half of a gallon-sized bag’s worth of found trash – mainly portions of wrappers, glass shards, plastic straws, partially burned cans, etc. Though it’s all too easy to absentmindedly pass a small gum wrapper corner on the trail, as enjoyers of the outdoors and protectors of the environment, we have a duty to leave the Earth better than we found it. After all, “Leave No Trace” ethics are for the collective good.
Along the way, we also saw many Indian Pipe/Ghost Flowers, which I recently learned are actually a type of flowering plant, not a mushroom! It also has some really interesting medicinal properties for those seeking out an internet dive. And…even though I thought blackberry season was over, we also found some wonderfully ripe blackberries and some wild blueberries! They made for sweet trail snacks, and the Chanterelles I foraged over the course of the trip were wonderful meal additions, too.
Being outside in fresh air, with good company, without a phone or connection to the outside world, and absorbed in natural beauty is truly wonderful and just a refreshing experience. Hip bruises and soreness aside, I had a wonderful trip and found solace once again being outside – I encourage all those able to get outside, smell the rich earth, and take a breath of fresh air.
Name: Lenore Alexander
Year in School: Senior
Major: Political Economy (Minors: Studio Art, Spanish)
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking and nature art
Favorite Camp Food: Rocky Mountain Toast (with fresh eggs and foraged mushrooms!)
Ideal Outdoor Adventure Trip Destination: Backpacking in the Canadian Rockies
If you were stranded on a desert island, what/who would you bring with you: My backpack with a knife, water filter, and disc inside and my dog.