AT Happiness: A Trail Vacation
One of the things I had to battle with in starting this hike was which part of my nature would win out. Part of me desired to plan my daily mileage and finish date in advance. To push the miles, stay on schedule and complete the task at hand.
The other side of me desired to not so much complete hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) as to experience hiking the AT. By this I mean allowing myself to extend a zero day, chase a side adventure or do whatever hits me that might enhance the experience.
The first thought would be a more purist form of the hike. When I was younger that would have appealed to me, the order, organization and accomplishment of that type of hike.
But I’m older now, more relaxed more about journeys than destinations. It’s why I was ok with my blue blaze around Albert Mt. and skipping two miles to stay with my group coming out of Franklin.
Likewise going into the Smokies, (I have a hate and love affair with TN), I was both excited by the mountains and not happy about the regulations. In the Smokies you’re required to stay at the shelters or risk a fine. If the shelter is not full you’re supposed to sleep in them as well. I’ve written before about my disdain for sleeping on the ground. It’s the reason I use a hammock.
So I was not excited about going into the Smokies but the first three nights turned out great. We went into Gatlinburg for resupply and a zero day and only after passing on two free rides to Knoxville did I check the weather. The forecast sucked, 50 mile an hour wind gusts, low temps and that meant sleeping in the shelters.
So, given the conditions, my feelings about the Smokies and my need for a little solitude, I headed for Knoxville. One thing that might surprise folks is the solitude statement. On the trail you are rarely alone particularly when you’re forced to stay at the shelters. I’d also been hiking in a group, which is by far not the norm for me. So as a bit of a loner, it was time for me to take a break.
So I’m yellow blazing (catching a ride) and skipping thirty miles of the Smokies. I’ll catch up with some hiking friends at Standing Bear Farm at Davenport Gap. The journey and more happy days will proceed from there. – Rev Kane