“It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.” -Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Brittany and I are having an incredible journey so far. The past four weeks have been amazing and challenging as we hiked through the mountains of northern Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
In North Carolina, the trail goes right down the main street of Hot Springs, a small town right outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park where we spent an evening at a hostel just on the edge of town. There was also a hot spring mineral bath that we took advantage of the following morning, before continuing our hike. Since then, Brittany and I have settled on trail names (these are handles that AT thru-hikers go by, if you've participated in Model United Nations where you call delegates by the country names, its the same idea). My brother in law, Shawn, conferred me with the name Spudnik a while ago an I have adopted it. The name was inspired by my love of potatoes-based foods and my ambiguous Eastern European appearance. Brittany has been wearing a head-scarf most days and this has inspired her new trail name, Babushka.
In Erwin, Tennessee we spent two nights tenting at a hostel- needing a day to rest. We had a great time catching up with other hikers whom we haven't seen in a while. We have not spent too much time off trail and this brief stop over was restorative. The following day, our friends Sam and Phil came down from the D.C. area and generously offered to take us to a family friend's home for the evening for some dinner and company. I want to thank Louise for hosting us and providing hearty and delicious home-cooked meals, a chance to do some laundry and a real bed to sleep on. Little things that I tended to over-looked or had taken for granted before getting on the AT have become more meaningful.
Most days out here have been very enjoyable. I realize how lucky I am to be spending my days climbing up mountain-sides to beautiful vistas, through forests and meadows, encountering the unexpected generosity of strangers, enjoying sightings of wildlife and meeting other thru-hikers. On a typical day we are up with the sunrise, and get out on the trail before 8 am, following a small breakfast and cup of instant coffee and hike until about 6 or 7 pm. Except for the Smoky Mountains, we are able to set up our campsite just about anywhere with a flat spot, provided we we have access to a spring or other nearby water source and tree branch high enough to hang a bear bag from. A few nights ago we were able to find a grassy spot atop a ridge-line, high above the valley below and were able to leave the tent fly slightly ajar so we could look up at the stars. You just can't beat that.
The North Carolina and Tennessee mountains are beautiful and have a lot of exposed summits and meadow-lands, providing a nice change of scenery from the green tunnel of forest we have grown accustomed to seeing. On a clear day from the tops of these areas (referred to locally as balds), you can see for 70 miles or more and there are beautiful mountains going out in all directions as far as the eye can see. The hiking has become somewhat easier, too.
Sometimes hiking all day can become monotonous. To help with boredom we have a Kindle Paperwhite (Amazon's E-reader), which allows us to read to each other or alone. Some ultra-lighter backpackers might scoff, but the Kindle is a luxury that I am thankful we brought along. We also have music, podcasts, photography and writing to turn to and we are usually not more than a few miles behind or ahead of some of our new thru-hiker friends. We always enjoy seeing friends and family, just message either of us if you would like to join us for part of a hike or to meet up in a trail town. Find an Appalachian Trail Community here: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/conservation/youth-community-engagement/a-t-community-program
I look forward to sharing whatever comes next. Please check out the photos tab (see above) to see pictures of our journey so far or follow us on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/christian.przybylek/ and https://www.instagram.com/brittany.mellinger/