I just returned from a haphazard tour of Asheville, NC; Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn. While one of the highlights of our trip was the 50K, Swaggy J and I managed to squeeze in some other amazing sights along the way.
We had many things on our list and we weren’t sure we’d get to them all but one of the deal-breakers was missing a chance to be on the Appalachian Trail. The trail is roughly 2,190 miles that stretches from Maine to Georgia. As ultra runners, we have been enthralled with the efforts to earn the FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempts by Scott Jurek in 2015 and then that record was broken by Karl Meltzer in August of this year.
The stage was already set for us to be wowed. But I wasn’t prepared for how unbelievable the mountainous area of the East coast really is. As Lowi lives in Colorado, I have seen the Rockies many times. We’ve hiked and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. And you start to think all mountains are the same but that’s woefully misguided.
The view from Max Patch bald mountain on Tennessee/North Carolina border along the Appalachian Trail is breathtaking, much like the Rockies, but in an entirely different way. It’s lush with trees and fall foliage this time of year. It’s dense in a way that I’ve not experienced Western mountains to be, not that I am expert in any way.
After we drove the 7-mile entry road to Max Patch Mountain, our adrenaline was already pumping. This is a bit of a harrowing experience as the road is very narrow, the curves and turns are blind and you never knew when you’d have a car rumbling down the road head on. It seemed the only option if that were to occur is to hit each other or take a dive off the side of the mountain. Neither choice was all that appealing.
But we made it without fanfare or vehicular impact and as soon as we got out of the car we were hooked. It was a gorgeous, cool, sunny, fall morning and all you could see for miles were tree-covered mountains. We started the 1.4-mile climb to the top of Max Patch and the world opened up into a landscape that left me breathless.
I found myself moving quickly around the top of the grassy bald trying to take it all in. And then John and I placed our feet on the actual Appalachian Trail itself and followed its posts with white blazes for a short time.
Just stepping on the trail felt euphoric and transcendent. Thinking about all the other people who had traversed the trail before whether heading north to Maine or south to Georgia sent an energetic burst through me. All I could think when we descended back to our car was, I need to get back to the trail. I need to experience more of this!
By “this” I mean more of awe-inspiring beauty, more hushed quiet of nature, more stripped down natural experiences that don’t involve technology just the land as it was intended, more real interactions with Mother Earth. I know that sounds a little heady but go climb a mountain, or even a tree and see what happens. Your experience will surely be different than mine but you will have an experience that is real, unedited, and wholly all your own. It will exist with you forever without a like or a hashtag and that purity of the experience will linger. (OK, alright so you can post your photos to social media. It’s not a like a rule or anything.)
Even a few days ago when someone asked about our trip all the emotions and feelings came back to me. It was like being able to relive it in a small way. Its essence has stayed with me.
In this time of uncertainty and chaos, some unfiltered and raw experiences are likely just what we all need. Be with nature. Be in the trees. Be in the water. Be in the world. It won’t let you down but it may lift you up.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G