Growing up Along the Appalachian Trail
As children, we have no control of where we grow up. Our parents make those decisions and we merely follow along. Although I was born in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., my family moved to Front Royal, Va., before I started kindergarten. Unless you have hiked the Appalachian Trail, you probably haven’t heard of this town until now.
Never heard of it.
Fair enough. Front Royal is at the northern end of Shenandoah National Park and the AT passes by on the outskirts of town. Skyline Drive goes through the park and is an extremely popular tourist attraction, especially in the fall when the leaves on the trees change colors. I always knew about the AT and our family would frequently go for hikes in Shenandoah National Park.
Sounds like a lovely place.
It is! However, our town never really seemed like a trail town. Outfitters couldn’t stay in business for more than a couple of years, most locals didn’t know much about the AT, and Front Royal wasn’t designated an official trail town by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy till 2012. Thanks to this designation and the trail becoming more popular every year, the town is slowly becoming more aware and accepting of hikers. Luckily, our parents knew about the beauty that surrounded us and were willing to take advantage of it. I spent a lot of my younger years outside and am very grateful for that.
The idea of doing a thru-hike never really seemed like a real possibility growing up. I enjoyed hiking and being outside, but I didn’t think that I’d actually do it one day. Nevertheless, the seed had already been planted and it just kept growing.
runs walks in the family.
In 2011, our mother started to section hike the AT and by the next year she had done the whole thing. My brother and I joined her and her tramily (trail family) during summer break from college for a section starting in New York and ending in Connecticut. I had done overnight hikes before but being out there with a whole gaggle of thru-hikers changed my perspective. The experience opened me up to a whole other world and after this trip is when I realized that I would need to do a thru-hike at some point in my life.
There’s a time for everything.
In 2014, after graduating with a degree in environmental studies, I decided I would use it and go for a 2,185.3 mile walk in the woods. During your first thru-hike, you lose track of how many people tell you, “You have no idea now, but this is going to change your life.” You nod and say things like, “Totally man!” or “Yeah sure, guy,” and you keep walking.
Were they right?
Absolutely! The college path came to a close and my life was set on a new path the minute I set foot on the AT. Sure, I was just following white blazes for four months, but even after the blazes ended I was still able to follow the path that was laid out in front of me. All I had to do was walk it. The Appalachian Trail has held a special place in my heart since walking it for the first time as a kid and holds an even greater place after thru-hiking it.
Have you walked through Front Royal?
Let me know if you did and how you liked it. Will I be walking by anyone’s hometown on the CDT? Thanks for reading.
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