Part of the trail came down to the area on the same side as the parking lot, and then continued across the highway. Intersections such as this--where the trail intersects with a highway--are popular as MEET UP locations. A foot trail as long as the A.T. is going to have LOTS of "intersections" with state borders, various government agencies, volunteer organizations, etc.; I consider it a miracle that this trail, conceived in 1921, built by private citizens and completed in 1937, still exists today, in a society that has increasingly lost the desire to spend time outdoors!
And speaking of MEET UP locations, I was happy to MEET UP with other Road Scholar hikers on a Sunday afternoon, at the Hinton Center, in Hayesville, North Carolina (www.hintoncenter.org). It is worth noting that this facility is also open for lodging for individuals, and not just groups. I would highly recommend you consider it, if you are ever in the area! As we did every morning during the week, we met on the deck of the dining hall before sunrise on Monday morning, so that we could do stretching exercises, as we watched the sun come up over the lake:
At the time of this program, Road Scholar was requiring masks when we were indoors, riding in the vans, or in close contact with others.
This is a close-up of the map:
I will not give a detailed account of the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday's hikes, but will state that we hiked a different part of the Appalachian Trail each day, and the following were "place names" listed for the week: Standing Indian basin, Rock Gap, Glassmine Gap, Long Branch Trail, Deep Gap, Standing Indian Summit, Glade Gap, Chunky Gal, Boteler Peak, Winding Stair Gap, Swinging Lick Gap, Panther Gap, Siler Bald, Wayah Crest, and Winding Stair. It is a very good thing that I was with a trained, and experienced hiking guide, because after the first "Gap" nomenclature, I was confused, even though I had seven more "Gaps" to navigate!
One of the mountains we summited I am able to remember because there was a marker at the top that showed its name and elevation. (the marker is next to my feet in this photo)
The following photos are just some interesting features of nature that we saw along the trail, that I want to remember, and so I am including them in this blog. After all, the name of this program was "NATURE HIKING", and our leader was Naturalist, Liz Domingue (www.JustGetOutdoors.com). My goal was to enjoy (and photograph!) some of the fascinating aspects of the natural world---not just race from "Point A to Point B"! The other hike leader was Linda Flynn, and both ladies were valuable sources of information about the outdoors. I used both a Canon pocket-size digital camera, and my iPhone. The nice thing about the iPhone, is that you can easily get that "fuzzy" look for a waterfall, without having to use a tripod (which is the way it was done in "days of old"!)
One of the interesting features Linda pointed out along the trail was the "Eiffel Tower Tree":
Our leader also pointed out this unusual "art work" of nature along the trail, that resemble hiking boots!
The group photo of all of us was taken by Bev Richardson, who along with her husband, Rod, had the role of "Host Couple" for our Road Scholar program. They are pictured below, with birthday cake, as we got to celebrate Rod's birthday during our week at the Hinton Center.
Appalachian Trail guidelines recommend no more than ten people to a group, so each day, we split into two groups of ten each. This photo shows one of the groups of ten, that I was with on the first day.
When you are hiking the Appalachian Trail, it is POSSIBLE that there will be a sign as you enter the trail. However, don't count on it!
For the most part, The A.T. trail is marked by white rectangular metal "blazes", nailed to a tree. The blue blazes could indicate a side trail to a shelter for overnight use:
I used my Fit Bit to record the steps I took each day, and every day was a new personal record for me! The most steps per day I ever logged was 28,143. I was feeling really proud of myself, UNTIL I came across this figure, as I was researching information for this blog: "It takes roughly 5 MILLION steps to hike the entire Appalachian Trail"!! Those numbers reminded me of the verse in the Psalms that talks about "steps". Psalm 37:23 says, "The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him." I was delighted I was able to complete the number of A.T. steps that I did, even though they are a LOOOOOOOOONG way from five million! Making it to four separate summits, on the four days of A.T. hiking, means four photos of me with hands uplifted to God, in gratitude for being able to take the steps needed to make the summit!
To find out more about the Appalachian Trail, check out the website for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (www.appalachiantrail.org) and the National Park Service ( www.nps.gov).
I am thankful for every step I was able to take on the Appalachian Trail for this program, and it gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia