|Valley filled with clouds and rolling fog. Stunning!|
I ended up on Brasstown Bald this weekend for a few reasons. The first is that I enjoy imagining the connections between mountaintops and rivers, and I find it satisfying to know I’ve walked the trails traversing the landscapes of the north Georgia mountains. I’d previously done most of the Jacks Knob Trail, which connects the Appalachian Trail at Chattahoochee Gap with Brasstown Bald. But there was a 1 mile part I’d missed. Enough incentive for me.
On top of Brasstown Bald, I could see the routes of the other two trails that descent from Brasstown Bald (the Wagon Train Trail and the Arkaquah Trail) and out in the distance was also the top of Blood Mountain (on the AT) poking up out of the clouds. By completing this little section of trail, I got another piece in my mental map of the north Georgia mountains filled in.
|View from summit of Brasstown Bald.|
I was also out getting practicing carrying extra water and food weight over significant elevation change for my PCT training. Up to 30 lbs now- my legs are game for anything, but my poor feet need extra time to build strength. I walk daily with my pack around my neighborhood, but that's nothing like climbing up and down several thousand feet (which I did by doing an out and back on the Jacks Knob Trail and most of the Arkaquah Trail).
|Lots of rain, fog, and tree foam at lower elevation.|
During the hike, I took a detour to one of my favorite places to find salamanders. I’ve had salamanders on my mind lately. Natural history is often what gives my hikes meaning, and finding salamanders (or plants or tree foam, etc.) is what I do, part of my identity. As a weekend backpacker, I reference guidebooks that contain natural history, many of my trips are motivated by seeking out particular plants, and finding plants or salamanders never fails to cheer me up when I’m having a rough day on the trail.
|A salamander friend.|
A few nights ago, I was flipping through my copy of the Wilderness Press Guide Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon and Washington, pondering maps and guidebooks. I got this book years ago- it's heavy and outdated, but I love reading the information on the geology and natural history of the PCT. Naturally, this salamander reference caught me eye and I started daydreaming about more salamander detours:
|From the Wilderness Press Guide.|
I know my priorities when I do my weekend trips- but it is hard to imagine how these will change on a long-distance hike. I read a lot about how people's gear and food preferences change over the course of a long-distance hike, but what about more fundamental values? Will I find other sources of meaning or inspiration? My enthusiasm for nature runs deep. A childhood spent climbing trees, turning over rocks in streams, swinging from rope swings. Will I ever grown tired of these things?
As with much of this PCT planning, I guess I'll just have to keep an open mind and find out next year. This is all part of the adventure of attempting something new.