My son, Ben, is an enthusiastic lover of the Appalachian Trail (AT), and I found myself doing day hikes with him and my camera this spring. For the hiker, the AT is filled with challenges and rewards. Some are bold like having the persistence to hike 2200 miles, while others are subtle like the camaraderie of the through-hikers. There are notable towns like Damascus, which hosts an annual festival enchanting hikers to return every year.
The trail itself – envision the nastiest, toughest terrain, then think of a beautiful spring walk in the meadow, add a lake, waterfalls, incredible vistas, walk in a forest of mountain fir trees… oh, and then there’s trail magic, trail angels, black bears, wild ponies, rain, snow, sun, wind, new hiking shoes, blisters, less and less in your pack, all as you daydream of a good night’s rest.
My first hike was Blood Mountain. I believe Ben chose this climb to see if I had what it takes to hike the trail. Hiking Blood Mountain was tough. It constantly ascends misaligned rocks, stairs of rocks, tree roots, and washed-out trails. It reminded me of Table Rock in South Carolina.
Both times, I was carrying my full camera pack and tripod. Table Rock beat me, I only made it to Governor’s Rock, where I turned back. Later I returned to Table Rock where Ben and I hiked to the top. The view at the top of each was spectacular.
Earlier we were at Neel Gap, which has an outfitting store. For the AT hiker, it is at the bottom of Blood Mountain, after they had made the climb.
The store specializes in fitting the hiker with the correct pack and has trail provisions, hot pizza, a hostel, and hiking shoes. A hiker may also find a shuttle service here. I asked permission to take photographs and they were happy to allow so.
Outside the store, I discovered the trees filled with hiking shoes. I pondered the shoes, wondering how many were just ill-fitting shoes or if they marked the end of the trail for many of the would-be through-hikers.
Oh, by the way, I decided to keep my hiking shoes.
Until my next click,
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