A Tennessee spring story

Day 33: May 2 -13.3 miles Hogback Ridge Shelter to Whistling Gap

From my journal:

Got out of bed this morning cranky about my time needs not being. No time for writing, journaling, photo editing this week... not wanting to surrender to the trail if that's what it means. Started the day complaining to D.

A lot of beautiful rolling terrain, some of my favorite terrain. Pretty views from Big Bald and the carpet of wildflowers going up was spectacular.

There were high points but I started ragging on D. later in the day - sore feet, long day. I just get tired of hiking. Damien reached his limit by the end of the day. We were silent through camp, supper, and clean-up (beautiful camp setting) and finally before going into separate tents we let it all out, in tears for both of us.

I miss intimacy with D. I am frustrated by the lack of time for things that matter to me, which makes the physicality of this adventure hard. D. is frustrated that his family doesn't appreciate this adventure for the opportunity it is, that we don't appreciate this time with him.

Going down into Sam's Gap, wildflowers and a Scarlet Tanager.

Part of the reason it's been so hard to write about our hike is because I don't know which story to tell. The small glimpses of trail life shared in journal entries, photos, and video are fragments, slivers of a complex and intense experience.

Even while we were on the trail we marveled to each other how hard it would be to convey the depth of our experience to the uninitiated. This is one reason why trail community becomes so important and close. And it also explains why Damien and I were so grateful, even on the days we found it hard to speak to each other, to be doing this together. It may be hard, but at least we shared in the hardship. And those beautiful views and quirky people wouldn't have to be explained to each other, we both got it because we had been there.

Climbing up to Big Bald, a carpet of Spring Beauties.

When I look at the photos it looks beautiful and even magical. When I read my journal entries it sounds depressing. When I watch the videos it's upbeat and inspiring. All of the pieces are accurate, in their own way. They just tell different parts of the story.

Summiting Big Bald, signing log book at Bald Mountain Shelter (grungy shelter if I remember correctly), and camping at Whistling Gap.

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« Appalachian Trail spring memories on the North Carolina and Tennessee border
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  • Leigh Lynes

    Leigh Lynes on May 4, 2015, 10:25 p.m.

    Renee, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing these excerpts from your journal, as well as your current reflections on your time on the trail. I know it takes a great willingness to be vulnerable to do so. Although our life paths are so different, whenever I read about your experience on the trail, I just keep nodding my head, because so many of your words mirror perfectly my thoughts and feelings after just coming off of 2.5 years of living aboard our boat. I especially love what you said about how all the different snippets of trail life are accurate in their own way. People are already asking me if I miss living on our boat. Well sure, I miss the majestic moments, but not the miserable ones! :-) I just want you to know how very much I appreciate you and your honesty and vulnerability. You are teaching me much.


  • Amy Smith

    Amy Smith on May 5, 2015, 5:16 p.m.

    I am really enjoying all your pictures and your journal entries from the trail.  Pictures never tell the whole story and I am enjoying seeing the beauty and hearing the hard too.


  • Jennifer Titus

    Jennifer Titus on May 12, 2015, 11:20 p.m.

    Thank you for your willingness to share both the beautiful and the hard moments of life - on the trail and off.  In its own way it is inspiring and it affirms that so much of what we see and hear online is through rose colored glasses.  No one posts the hard times, the real life moments and it leaves you wondering what your life lacks that others don't appear too.  

    You and your family have inspired us to hike the PCT (our side of the country), though not all of it, and not for awhile as our daughter is only 3.  You have inspired us to travel, to see the world, and make our own place in it.  To teach our daughter to love and respect nature, other cultures, and herself.  It is so hard to put into words the affect reading your story has on me, as a wife, working mother, and dreamer, but I want to thank you for it.

    Thank you for sharing, thank you for being vulnerable, honest and real, thank you!



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