The typical summer vacation of a teenaged girl is simple: she lies on the beach, soaking up the sun with her close girl friends by her side. They discuss boys and sing along to popular songs on the radio.
In lieu of this common paradise, I spent my summer preparing for an unordinary getaway. In June, my father and I were to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. This meant a week with no cell phone, no internet, etc. This would seem absolutely mad to most teens (and most people think I’m crazy for considering this to be a vacation), but to me it was the opportunity of a lifetime. To go out into nature and get away from society, just as Thoreau encourages, is a peaceful experience that I was very enthusiastic about.
Our hike started at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia. The beginning of the trail had a gorgeous view of the mountains. As I gazed into the landscape, I wondered if we would run into other people along the trail, or if my father’s face would be the only one I’d see throughout the week. Contrary to my assumptions, each shelter was absolutely packed with hikers. My dad and I grew close with two particular men who were hiking together, and we soon learned that once a trail bond is formed, the relationship will never be forgotten.
The days of trekking were long, but sleepless nights proved to be even longer. There were tiny wooden shelters to sleep in, but I learned on the first night that they were infested with rats. Plan B was our so-called two-person tent, but the hard ground didn’t make for a very good mattress. I woke up each morning extremely sore. Oddly enough, I found that the pain was somewhat alleviated once I put on my thirty-pound backpack.
One aspect of the trip that I enjoyed was the photographic opportunities. I warned my dad that he didn’t have to wait up for me every time that I stopped to take a picture. My photos range from distant landscapes of mountains to close-up photos of unique flowers. Unfortunately we didn’t come across any bears, so the only fauna I could take snapshots of were worms and les escargots.
I’ve always loved to be outdoors, but my high school life doesn’t provide much room for that. Teenagers tend to stay inside by watching movies or going out to eat. Living in the wilderness for a week was a refreshing experience for me and I savored every moment of it. I loved the silence of the forest and the cool breezes. Instead of getting ready for the day in a hotel bathroom, I would grab my mini toothbrush, washcloth and biodegradable camp soap and head down to a stream each morning. It may sound unappealing to most people, but I thought it was actually pretty cool. This definitely teaches one to be grateful for what he has.
Although my summer vacation was far from usual, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. Once we reached the summit of Sassafrass Mountain, we were presented with the best view we’d see all week. The endless mountains were definitely part of a surreal scene that words cannot describe, and it was worth every drop of sweat. During my hike, I formed bonds with people I’ll never forget. These thirty miles reminded me to stop and smell the roses in life. The Appalachian Trail is my escape from society and I plan to hike the entire 2,100 miles before I grow old.
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