Stretching for 2000 miles from Maine to Georgia is the famous Appalachian Trail. For many hikers, this is the ultimate adventure, and if they can’t complete the whole thing at once (a huge commitment) then they will cover it piece by piece.
Atop the Smoky Mountains at the state border between Tennessee and North Carolina, there is a monument and a 1.7 mile section of the Appalachian Trail you can complete.
On this trip I’ve discovered a bit of a liking for hiking. In Peru all those years ago I discovered I didn’t like walking up or downhill. Something rather limiting when travelling in mountainous regions. But I think that laziness has faded, and I don’t mind exerting some effort to climb a mountain or descend a canyon.
Therefore, I wasn’t going to pass up the ability to say I’d hiked part of the Appalachian Trail. I set out from a carpark full of Americans and expected to find the trail heavily trafficked. Well, as my Lonely Planet explains, 90% of visitors don’t venture further than 100 yards from their car. I found this to be true. The first stretch was filled with families, but after a couple of hundred metres, the trail was quiet and just had a few people passing by.
Maybe here it was that I started to flesh out the idea that Americans aren’t particularly adventurous. I hasten to add that I have also met many adventurous Americans in my travels, it just seems people are less likely to take risks and will continue in the well-worn formula of life – school, university, work, get married, raise a family, retire.
At the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Centre, I wasn’t so sure about the 9 mile (14.5km) Navajo Knobs trail that hiking buddy Brian was so keen on.
For starters, the weather was grey and rain looked imminent. I didn’t quite have the heart to tell him then that if it was raining, there was no way I was climbing the slickrock and no way I’d do it for 9 miles. I was fully prepared to pike out like I did on the sunset.
The threatened rain appeared as I was pitching my tent in the beautiful Fruita campground. My enthusiasm waned substantially. I suggested we go on the scenic drive “in the meantime”, and so we got in Esmeralda and travelled along the not overly scenic road. At the end of the bitumen, I decided to turn around because the last thing I would want is to get Esmeralda bogged in the sticky red dirt.
As we headed back to the campground, lo and behold, the grey skies parted and showed their blue cousin.
So I found myself ascending 2400 feet (730m) over the undulating trail. However, the views were totally worth the climb and my inner petulant child that creeped out a few times during the hike. Thanks Brian for suggesting it and thanks blue skies for making me keep my word!
I was super keen to go hiking in Red Rock Canyon, about 20 miles out of Vegas, so taking Anja along with me for the ride, we set off.
As I drove along the road the heat of the day started seeping into my sleep-deprived self and sapping my energy. At the visitor centre we both realised that the scenic drive was about all we’d be good for today. I gave in to the lethargy and we drove the 13 mile circuit instead, only stopping for photos before getting back into air conditioned Esmeralda. I can’t imagine that anyone actually does any of the hikes in summer, it was so bakingly hot.
The Red Rock Canyon certainly lives up to its name with magnificent deep red colouring, so the drive was worth it though, and I didn’t feel cheated by giving in and not even doing one little hike. I guess that’s what Vegas does to you. It keeps you out all hours and then tells you all day that the best thing to do in Vegas is party, sleep and relax.
A little adventure, or rather an American Sunday hike, with my friends Ricardo, Astra and Jolena in Griffith Park showed me that it isn’t just Brits that ditch their shirts at the slightest ray of sunshine.