Monday, April 13, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms[.]
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American Essayist and Philosopher
Say hello to Aaron and Jon, Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Class of 2009, who I met last night at the Beauty Spot on Unaka Mountain. Those who start in Georgia on their six month, 2,175 mile trek to Maine are called "north bounders" -- or NOBOs. Fewer adventurers start in Maine and hike the trail south to Georgia -- they're predictably called SOBOs. While it's estimated 3-4 million people hike some portion of the AT each year, only a total of 10,543 people have completed the entire span since the trail was completed in 1936. To give you an idea of what a difficult feat this is, consider that of the 1,125 people who started out last year on Springer Mountain in Georgia, only 302 made it all the way to Maine (a completion rate of 27%). March is the traditional start time for NOBOs, this will hopefully mean a completion sometime in September. Jon and Aaron began on March 18th - and so far are making good progress and said they're holding up well. For the most part they've missed the bad weather and have already logged approximately 350 miles on their journey to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Did you know? Each year Damascus, Virginia has an annual festival celebrating the Appalachian Trail (and the many other trails that traverse this small town -- including the magnificent Virginia Creeper Trail) called "Trail Days." They have events scheduled throughout the month of May, culminating the weekend of May 15-17. Click here for a schedule of events.


  1. I went to Max Patch yesterday and found on the trail below there were a lot of early spring wildflowers, trillium, dutchman's britches, trout lily, bloodroot, and spring beauty, to name a few. Lots of AT hikers going through, too.

    I think Beauty Spot and Roan remain my favorite views though. Such a beautiful day!

  2. Hi Mark,

    I love your blog and check it almost every day. I have taken a lot of your tips on great places to hike. My mother and I love to hike, but she is now getting older (82) and is having more difficulty with strenuous hikes (ones that have a lot of uphill). The length of the hike is not so much of an issue. Do you have some suggestions for some good hikes I can take her on when she visits next month? I live between Elk Park and Roan Mountain, but don't mind driving a bit for some great hikes. Last year I took her on the Doe River train tracks hike and we loved it. She still does OK on hikes such as to the first bald on the AT at Roan Mountain. By the way, how strenuous is the hike to Beauty Spot? We love views, waterfalls, wildflowers, etc. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks! Judy

  3. Hi Judy - great that you and your Mom are able to get out and hike together! Here are some fairly level, accessible destinations (most all are listed in my 'Table of Contents' section to the right)... It's hard to find truly flat trails -- some of these have a gradual assent. Happy Trails! :)
    VA Creeper Trail, Abingdon/Damascus, VA
    Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN
    Weir Dam/Osceola Island, Bristol, TN
    Roan High Bluff, Roan Mountain, TN
    Bass Lake, Blowing Rock, NC
    Flat Rock Overlook, BRP
    Beauty Spot, Erwin, TN
    Roaring Fork Falls, NC
    Steele Creek Park, Bristol, TN
    Wiseman's View, NC

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