Give me a mountain and I’ll jump on it. Part 1
Un-surprisingly reaching a summit and just letting your soul soak in the magic is one of my most treasured moments on trail. Whatever the weather it didn’t bother me, it was always a special moment. Obviously clear views were favoured to take in as much as possible, but it wasn’t a major disappointment to me if the weather was rough. Some of my most exhilarating memories on trail were of being on top of mountains in crazy weather being slammed by gale force winds, or dancing with the devil wondering if the next lightning bolt would strike you down, I’ll just mention here that I didn’t purposely seek out lightning storms on top of mountains and ridgeline, but when your hiking 2200 miles through a mountain range it happens, quite a lot.
Now photos never ever look as good as the real thing and they never do the great expanse of mountain views justice. But when your hiking through these beautiful mountains you cant help but snap away and try your hardest to take a little bit of it away with you, especially if you have a memory like I do. So as I hiked along summiting spectacular mountain after spectacular mountain I tried to take photos as much as possible of myself on the summits and me with mates on the summits. I found various ways to celebrate and let out some joy and elation for having reached the top. The feeling of achievement was fantastic and on occasion I would actually stand on the edge and let out a shout to the mountain gods, just out of respect and also as a way of building memories to take home with me. It’s this building of memories which became very important to me. We were hiking for six months continuously and days and weeks after a while would start to merge and with that the memories themselves.
What follows is a collection of my mountain top photos. I had literally hundreds so have whittled them down a bit and tried to put them in a state by state order, but like I said my memories have gotten a little hazy.
Blimey’s photo reel of mountaintop shenanigans
Here I am right back at the beginning doing the classic Springer Mountain shot, Its first day nerves and the start of one epic journey where I will change beyond all recognition from what you see here.I remember the first clear beautiful day we had with a spectacular view back in Georgia. We hung out on this vista point for a good couple of hours. Hikers played guitar, we took each others photos, we sun bathed even though a few hours before we awoke in our tents to frost all over the ground and there we were, on the mountain in t-shirts, basking. We enjoyed some trail snacks and talked about our reasons for being there on the Appalachian Trail. I knew at this point that this very moment was a huge reason for being out there. Just to be in it and enjoying everything it had to give.
It was also great to be able to share these views with new friends in our hiker bubble, my fellow hikertrash. I met some of these guys from day one and would continue to hike on and off with them and bump into them on trail for many miles to come. Here I am with Jetlag, Peaches, Siratcha, Pretzel and Tags. I believe this is Powel mountain where we watched sunset and sunrise. It was perfect.
As we headed into the next couple of states NC and TN we would hit new scenery, which included a few bolds promising spectacular views, and also fire towers to climb peeking into the clouds above mountains. Each gave me new opportunities to try out new photo techniques although I was never great at looking cool in photos and just ended up looking like a berk.
I was a big fan of a good group photo along the way, after all memories are always better when shared with some mates. This is Clingmans Dome one of the more famous spots along the trail. I am joined from right to left by The Bulls, Peaches, Myself, Jetlag and Siratcha. It was blowing a gale up there that day which explains our attire and our snuggled together like sardines pose.
We somehow managed to get this shot below, somewhere in TN which turned out looking like a photo shoot for the characters out of a sitcom. This was one of those summits without a view, a huge disappointment amongst hikertrash which you never quite got used to. You always felt like ‘ I’ve climbed you, now where is my view you bitch’, which is very self-centred I know but, when your tired and sweating buckets after having hoofed your plus 30lb pack up the mountain, you want a little more than just trees to greet you.
I’ll never forget reading through The AT Guide and realising there was a mountain with the same family name as mine. But when it came to the day to hike it and we reached the top, there was nothing just total tree cover, a few boulders and the trail down the other side. Oh well I daren’t complain anymore as overall I was utterly spoilt with awe-inspiring views.
But like I said a little earlier, this didn’t really bother me too much, I love a good storm, keeps you on your toe’s and makes you feel alive. Needless to say we didn’t hang around too long especially on the highest point marker and I wasn’t sticking my poles in the air for this one. The trail giveth and taketh away, but you can be certain it will be giving something pretty special just round the corner. As it was we hiked down the other side of Max Patch and the clouds lifted, revealing the bold in all it’s glory.
Along came Virginia and she was special for a variety of reasons. We had hiked over 460 miles. At that point in my hike, that alone was insane. Virginia is also the home of Damascus, the famous trail town known for Trail Days, and also a mental mile stone I had set myself at the beginning. If I could reach Damascus, I had told myself, I knew that injury aside I could make it to Katahdin. This explains the reaction in this photo below, of me arriving at the wooden arches into Damascus. This and the fact we just pulled off a Damascathon, 28 odd miles to reach the town, my biggest day yet on trail. Ok, I know this isn’t a mountain top photo, but this is still a photo significant to this blog post. This, is the first known photo of myself doing the ‘The Jump Shot’. This was the moment that I found my signature shot. Once this had happened, I never looked back. There was no better way to celebrate a moment than to leap in the air. Simple as it is, it made me happy and released a burst of joy whenever the moment called for it. The rest is history.
The ‘Jump Shot’ photo reel and other mountain snaps
Just outside of Pearisburg was my first mountain jump shot, I think. I sent this to family and friends back home and nearly gave my mum a heart attack. Sorry Mum. But she was to become used to it as this was the first of many.
There was of course still time for some group shots, some of which became some of my favourite photos of our hiker gang.
McAfee Knob was stereotypically another big mile stone for me. It is, the most photographed spot along the entire Appalachian Trail. It’s usually one of the first photos you see when you start searching for information in the research stages before your thruhike. Seeing the photos of this magical spot with epic scenery all around you, then to actually hike to that spot yourself after 700 odd miles, which turns out to be roughly a 3rd of the entire thruhike…..needless to say it was an incredibly special day. Here’s a couple of photographs from that day, and yes of course there’s a jump shot.
Well as that’s about a 3rd of the thruhike for this particular subject, I will leave it there for now and work on the next section. I hope you enjoy the read and of course the photo’s. Keep posted for part 2 and 3 in the coming weeks. If your on WordPress click that follow button. If not click the bigger email follow button and get it straight to your ‘interweb’ mail box.
Thank you to all the long-term followers and the new one’s to come, and my apologies that it’s taken a while for me to get back into the swing of writing up my Appalachian Trail thruhike. I’m back and here to stay, especially with my PCT thruhike coming up next year from May.
The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for ADVENTURE. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
Into The Wild, Christopher McCandless