My 2021 hiking season ended with one more long distance hike in the Appalachian Mountains. After I finished the CDT I went home to Telluride, Colorado for two weeks. I wanted to see the aspens change colors there and get some quality fall day hikes in while recovering from the CDT. On top of the lure of the Aspens, I missed my friends. Two weeks later, I flew to North East Ohio to visit my parents. From there, my Appalachian Fall hiking plan took off. Over the summer my dad asked me if I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail with him through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It worked out perfectly that I could hike the Smoky Mountains with my dad and then get dropped off in Virginia afterwards, hike by myself for a few days and then meet up with Luke in Daleville Virginia.
My dad and I had a blast in the Smokies. We hiked approximately 15 miles everyday. The weather was absolutely perfect and the park wasn’t crowded. Almost every night was a quiet one with only one or two other hikers. The leaves were starting to turn colors and the trail looked like a rainbow carpet. It was fun to revisit some miles of the AT at a relaxed pace with a different perspective. One thing I had to be careful about was my individual foot steps. Since there were so many leaves covering the trail it was hard to see rocks and roots that could easily twist ankles and knees. In the Smokies, we got to take a rest day when we got to Clingmans Dome. Then we skipped ahead to Newfound Gap. When we reached the end of the park, we returned to finish the section between Clingmans and New Found Gap with only day packs.
After we finished the Smokies, my dad dropped me off about 30 miles south of Daleville, VA. I had three days to myself before meeting up with Luke in Daleville. I took it easy and got to see the Virginia Tripple Crown in perfect weather. Last time I had the chance to see it on my thru hike, it was raining so I didn’t get a view. The Virginia Tripple Crown consists of three rock formations known as Dragons Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs. McAfee Knob is the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail making for a classic photo opportunity. It was nice to get to spend three days on my own schedule.
I met up with Luke slightly North of Daleville. He has spent five years section hiking the Appalachian Trail and this was his last section he had left to complete. We hiked 320 miles North to Boonsboro, Maryland. The section along the Blue Ridge Parkway between Daleville and Waynesboro, VA was very challenging with some long climbs and significant elevation gain. We would climb up to 3-4k feet and drop straight back down into a valley, repeating several times. My body was sore and it took some adjusting to the bigger days. Shenandoah National Park was my favorite section I hiked this fall. It ended up raining heavily on us while we were there but it was a blessing in disguise. The rain helped us discover a charming new trail town with a farm hostel ( give Small Axe Farms in Elkton, VA a visit!) and helped the colors of the leaves have an extra vibrant pop. After we made it 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park, the trail corridor became very narrow in a more populated region of the states and went by many historical spots such as the original Washington Monument and the National Historic Park known as Harper’s Ferry. I packed out a small bottle of Prosecco so that Luke could have some celebration bubbles when he finished the trail. During this trip I also hit the 3k mark of miles backpacked this season (since April) it was exciting to explore some uncharted territory with my body and see how well it held up for so long! It was a miracle I was able to hike so much this season without experiencing any sort of painful over use injury such as plantar fasciitis or shin splints.
Overall I ended up hiking 400 miles of the Appalachian Trail this year. I think I might be on my way to completing the whole trail for a second time via section hiking. I’m sure I will continue to do small sections with my dad and return for some solo time when needed. As of right now I am en route to Colorado where I will start working tomorrow! This winter I am managing a small restraunt called “High Camp Warming Hut”. At 11,815ft, It is the second highest restraunt option at Telluride ski resort. I’ve been working for resort owned restraunts in Telluride for the past two Winters. I am excited to have the opportunity to move into a management position this winter. To be honest I’m nervous and I hope I didn’t make the mistake of giving up my ski days but I’m optimistic that it will be a good season. I intend to make the best of it.
As far as future plans go, I will be attempting to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2022. I need to secure a highly competitive permit in order to do this. I was unable to get a permit the first round when 70% of them were released. I have reached out to quite a few friends who will try and help me get one in the January round when the remaining 30% are released. Besides hiking, I am trying to get a bit more serious about my writing. I want to dedicate more time and discipline to it and possibly continue to write about other hiking related subjects than just a daily trail journal. While I originally opted out of blogging for “The Trek” in 2019 because I wanted more control over owning my writing, I am considering reaching out to be a 2022 PCT trail blogger for the website. They are a well known source of information for hikers and my writing would get more exposure. While I love that this blog has had a small and personal community, I think that writing for a well known name will help me have a commitment to becoming more professional at my writing. Not only that, but The Trek has a whole team of people who have their website running. It’s a lot harder to keep a blog up and running than most people realize, not only that but it costs me money to host my blog as of right now. I’m working on becoming more tech savvy so I can make my blog into more of what I want in the future. I will keep this community updated if I end up changing to the Trek temporarily ( they have to accept an application).
I hope you enjoyed reading this reflection on my fall 2021 travels and direction I’m heading in the future. Thanks for reading this far if you did!