Appalachian Trail on Bearfence Mountain
Vista from the Appalachian Trail on Bearfence Mountain

I was fortunate, as a child, to grow up in a small town where the Appalachian Trail danced along the mountaintops that I could see from my bedroom window, and even more fortunate that my parents often took me for walks in the woods, sometimes on the Red Dot and Blue Dot trails that led to the Appalachian Trail.

When we moved to Florida, I had a plan in mind: I would hike back to my little town after high school and reunite with my Eagle Scout sweetheart. But our lives took different turns, and mine turned away from hiking for more than a decade.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when I made an effort to day hike along it in numerous spots, including Shenandoah National Park. Bearfence Mountain was the first hike that scared the heck out of me. The blue blaze was easy enough, but the white blazes led up a jagged course with deep fissures between the rocks. This was the Appalachian Trail?

Still, the allure remained. I hung this photo up at work (hence the age spots) to remind myself of the fears I needed to overcome, the challenges I needed to face, and my dream of thru-hiking the AT that hatched when I was 17. My planning for a thru-hike began that year.