The Moment I Knew

There’s that moment when everything clicks. Your heart settles. Your mind calms to a peaceful emptiness. You breathe easier. Relax more. You feel more content than you ever have before. You feel home. I didn’t know that it could feel like this. That I would find myself more at home in the mountains, lost among the towering trees, than I ever did in a city. Is this what others feel? I wondered as I took in my surroundings.

It was the middle of March and the weather was a crisp cold except when basking under the warm rays of the sun. We were in Hot Springs, hiking a small section of the AT. The view from the top spread out beneath me. The river catching the rays of the sun, glistening and twinkling. The mountains rose before me in various shades of greens and blues, cascading up and down in soft peaks. I see the bright colors of tiny squares that belong to the tents of campers along the river. The wind sways around, softly catching my hair. The leaves rustle as the trees gently sway. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun basking my face.

The sun begins its slow descent so we travel back to where we set up camp and begin to work on starting a fire. Our tent was pitched, the fire was crackling peacefully, and the dogs were playing gleefully on the run we had created for them. I smiled to myself, secretly proud that I had made it. My first backpacking trip. No complaints, minor struggles, and pure contentment. I had managed to keep up with my brother, who I’m sure had slowed his pace for me, but I was still proud that I’d kept up with the pace he’d set.

It’s not long before we are joined by two hikers and the dog companion. They look rugged, tired, and relieved to have a spot to set up camp. The four of us surround the fire, listening to the crackle and pop. It’s nearly dark now and conversation is flowing. We hear stories of their journey so far, the pair are Northbounders on the AT. I listen intently, enthralled by what they have seen along the way. The stories of those that they have met along the way, the challenges that they’ve faced, their highs, and their lows. The community that they found.

This is when I knew. Sitting at a camp fire, surrounded by the sounds of the crackling of the fire and the distant noises of animals settling down for the night. Bundled up and enjoying a hot chocolate. The soft glow of the sun setting in the distance. Enthralled by stories of the Appalachian Trail. This is when I knew that I wanted this. That I could be a backpacker. That I would one day hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. I wanted to belong to the community that these two hikers so fondly talked about.

I had met thru-hikers before. I had heard numerous stories. But that night something clicked, maybe it was the fact that I was finally backpacking for the first time. Or maybe it was the camaraderie that I felt. Or maybe it was that I finally felt at home in the backcountry. This is where I belonged. For the first time in a very long time I found peace.

Our campsite

Our campsite

Hot Springs, NC

Hot Springs, NC

Marlow the Mountain Dog!

Marlow the Mountain Dog!

Sunny Views

Sunny Views

Sunset from our campsite

Sunset from our campsite

It was a cold, wet hike back to the car

It was a cold, wet hike back to the car

Advertisement

4 thoughts on “The Moment I Knew

  1. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I love Hot Springs and Lovers Leap as well. I’m hoping to be back there over my winter break! Happy Trailing!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s