Big Miles, Big Bears

The birdsong begins before my alarm, an overlapping chorus of tweets and peeps and chirp-chirp-chirps. It’s a comforting sound, a sound that sounds like home. Which it is, really. Over the past year, I realize, I’ve spent more nights sleeping outside than in. I roll onto my side and open my eyes. They fall closed. … More Big Miles, Big Bears

In the Smokies I Sleep in Shelters, In the Smokies it Always Rains

We pull into the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome in the early evening. Alanna keeps the car running while I take too long to gather my things. Her heater is turned up all the way. Outside, the sky sags dark and heavy, unrelenting rain. “I can take you back to Asheville if you want,” she … More In the Smokies I Sleep in Shelters, In the Smokies it Always Rains

Fontana Dam: Before the Smokies, Before the Rain

Fontana Dam marks the official start of the Smokies, where the AT tickles the spine of the steep mountain range for 75 miles or so, criss-crossing back and forth between North Carolina and Tennessee. This section of trail, people say, is wet. And cold. And hard. And beautiful.  It’s late morning when I arrive at … More Fontana Dam: Before the Smokies, Before the Rain

All the Young Dudes

A strange thing happens after I part ways with Two Bad Dogs: I see ZERO THRU HIKERS on the trail all day (and only four section hikers who are heading south.) This is quite surprising, as this happened only once on my entire PCT thru-hike, and there are more than twice as many people on … More All the Young Dudes

Safety in Numbers/Staring Contests (Never Camp By a Road)

The crusty kids from Virginia and I hike together today. Patrick flies along the trail, barging up the big climbs and jogging down the steep descents. I’m amazed at how fast he hikes with that giant pack; camp shoes swinging wildly from carabiners, a coiled silver sleeping pad thwap-thwap-thwapping against the backs of his thighs.  … More Safety in Numbers/Staring Contests (Never Camp By a Road)