Ever since I have returned from Montana, something has changed within me. I cannot stop thinking about mountains, and therefore adventure. For me, the two are almost inseparable.
I’ve always stood in complete awe of mountains. I believe this started because I grew up in Northwest Indiana where the highest point is about 120 feet (and that’s only because we have sand dunes). Everything I saw around me growing up was flat, and full of corn. (Which, don’t get me wrong, can be beautiful in it’s own way but you have to realize that’s all I ever saw.)
Then, in 1999, I was introduced to the Smoky Mountains. I can still remember the first time I saw the rolling hills grow into the Appalachian mountain range. It was subtle, but I was still full of awe. This started a lifelong love of this mountain range. I’ve been back more times than I can even count, and I have yet to tire of them. I kept a journal growing up of almost every time my family vacationed in East Tennessee. Every time I wrote about hiking, it would be accompanied by many exclamation points and happy faces (because what 11 year old writes journal entries without these?).
first trip to the Smokies… my, oh my, how things have changed.
an except from my journal during that first trip:
April 1, 1999
Today we went on a hike. Altogether it
tookwas 4 miles! It took us about 3 1/2 hours! 🙂 There were some pretty cool pictures to take. We climbed up to an overlook. * We got to go across streams! It was cool!! 🙂
*We climbed Mt. Cammerer
(I love that I HAD to make that footnote at the end. But I’m glad I did. The first mountain I ever “climbed” was Mt. Cammerer and I’m really glad I decided that was an important fact my my 11 year old brain). Side note: Backpacker Magazine just named the view from Mt. Cammerer the best view in the state of Tennessee. Not bad for a first hike for an 11 year old.
Now, it’s nothing profound, but it was real. And, that’s really all you can ask of me then or now. But, one thing was for sure, I was enamored with mountains at a young age.
from that first hike to Mt. Cammerer
Fast forward 14 years. I took a solo retreat to the very same mountains to rest and recharge, something I have a terribly hard time doing. The Smoky Mountains are one of the few places I feel almost always completely at rest.
an excerpt from my journal:
February 20, 2013
I guess I never realized how much coming to the Smokies influenced and shaped my life. It’s allowed my love of nature to flourish, to stand in awe of creation. I “outdoors” grew up here in awe of the rolling mountains of Tennessee. They have instilled in me something that I can’t separate: my love for mountains, nature, and most importantly, God.
Thankfully, my writing abilities have (slightly) improved but the sentiment remains the same.
Mountains are majestic, powerful, immoveable. The many trips taken to this stretch of the Appalachian mountains taught me to value the outdoors and adventure. They were a foundation for falling in love with things like counseling at summer camp, hiking, chaco sandals, camping, and backpacking.
I share these thoughts because I hope that each and every human on this earth can feel the same feeling I get when I’m in the mountains. I know you won’t have the exact same story or experience but, I can guarantee you that there is something in your life that makes you so present, so alive and real. Find that thing and share it with everyone.