June 13-15, 2019
Blog writing has always appealed to the chronicling portion of my mind (mileage and events). Part of it is a way to remember the trail in a logical manner. The purpose of this space was two-fold: write down a map for my kids to see what I accomplished and encourage others to get in the wilderness and explore.
I like to hike and in the past four years I have finished the Pisgah 400, South Beyond 6000, the Art Loeb Trail (4x), the Long Trail, the Foothills Trail and hiked extensively on the Bartram Trail, Benton Mackaye Trail, the Lookout Tower Challenge and Appalachian Trail. People wonder why I go out every weekend and hike or backpack. It is for the simple reason that it makes me feel better.
I am a lawyer. Instead of pursuing a high profile job, I chose to work for a non-profit law firm, of which I have been with since I graduated law school. Specifically, I chose to root myself in rural Appalachia and help poor folks find a better way of life. We do not charge for a representation, the only criteria is that people must qualify for our services and we choose to accept your case. The cases that are in the most demand for lawyers are domestic violence (DV) and custody. We will represent victims as they attempt to keep their abusers away. Most areas of the country are violent, but there is a particularly brand of DV in the mountains of North Carolina (NC) that is especially gruesome. The history of western NC is one of poor white people fleeing society in order to be alone. Most people are distrustful of outsiders. When people call us, it means that the victim is truly afraid.
As I tell friends, no one has ever called a lawyer when they are having a good day. Imagine the worst memory of your life (getting beat up, being fired, becoming disbaled, your father beating your mom, a friend or close relative being molested by someone). Now, imagine having to talk to someone who is going through one of the worst days of their lives 12-15 times a day and then being asked to fix it. It takes a toll. You become numb after a while. I’m shocked at myself and what I am able to listen to. I can hear grisly details from someone who was nearly killed and won’t even bat an eye. Some people call it vicarious trauma, certainly all areas of the law (wherein you deal with people) will experience this. That’s why the alcoholism rate for lawyers is so high. I personally don’t know many lawyers who don’t drink.
In lieu of dealing with stress in favor of abuse, I choose to hike. That’s part of it. The other part is that I actually feel better after hiking. I can be in the woods for five minutes and anxiety flees. Life starts making sense, I remember who I am, what I like, what makes me happy. Every time I drive to the trail, in my mind I will rehash a case or client or decision I had to make. Rehashing is a nice verb to use. Obsess is a truer one. You may ask why, but when a mistake will cost someone custody of their children or their home, it’s easy to worry. By the time I am finished my sojourn amongst the trees, I cannot even recall what I was worried about. There have been many interesting studies done about “forest bathing” in America and notedly in Japan. I understand the science behind these feelings, but I just know it helps me and makes me feel whole.
Such was the case when I drove for a three day hike to the Smoky’s on Thursday morning. My route was to hike up to Bradley Fork Trail, then Hughes Ridge Trail, camping at Pecks Corner Shelter, on day 2, take the AT south and then Dry Sluice Gap to campsite #50 and then finish hiking a small section of the Hyatt Ridge Trail.
It was a wonderful trip. I met a lot of great people and had some great conversation. There were a lot of thru hikers (flip floppers) at Pecks and I enjoyed hearing their stories and aspirations. The woods always restores my faith not only in humanity, but more so in myself.
Total mileage is 32.58 miles.