AT 2017

On Sunday, May 7, I slept five hours, drove five hours, rode in a shuttle van two hours, then hiked eight miles. It was a great day.

My start: Fontana Dam, where I ended last year’s AT hike. As soon as I got out of the shuttle, two separate tourists, back-to-back, asked me directions to the Trail. “Where’d you come from?” One asked, eyeing my stained clothing. “Nashville,” I said. “You hiked here from Nashville?!”
my favorite thing to see when I look up

I spent the following nine days hiking south towards Unicoi Gap, GA, where I’d left my car. Along the way, I interviewed and photographed northbound thru-hikers for a project modeled loosely after Humans of New York — which, surprisingly, not many thru-hikers had heard of.

Here are a sampling of the photographs (ones that I don’t plan on selling to magazines):

I asked them what being American means to them. Nearly everyone paused to consider the question, and nearly everyone concluded, “Freedom.” But most couldn’t articulate exactly what that meant. I think America is about diversity and about embracing that diversity to move forward together, so I liked the answers that riffed on that idea. One person said rather bitterly that to be American means to consume.

I also asked everyone what they think is the number one problem our country faces. Many talked about political divides, ignorance, fear, selfishness, and the like. Only two or three out of 50 said “global warming.” A handful said drugs, one said homelessness. A couple of people said greed/love of money. Several people talked about the federal budget. I liked the answers to this question a lot more than the answers to the “being American” question.

Other favorite photos from the trip:

the best kind of bed canopy

self-timer self-portrait
sunset that evening

sunrise on my last morning on the trail
same sunrise
trail mix burrito: my lunch for 10 days

last peak on last day

I love hiking! And sunshine! And trees! And mountains! And sunrises and sunsets and trail mix burritos! And my tent and my sleeping bag and my sleeping pad and my stove and morning camp tea and camp oatmeal! and memorizing poetry and knowing the “I have a dream” part of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech! and feeling physically capable! and meeting new people and encountering new ideas! This hike was a nice reminder of how much I love all those things.