The Most Memorable Moment from My 2014 Thru-Hike

The following entry was submitted by Aroo, a 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, via our “Submit a Story” form.  Have a story to tell?  Share it with us for a chance to be featured!

Over the course of 6 months I pushed myself both physically and mentally further than I could have imagined. Along with the challenges came amazing moments and enough memories to last a lifetime. After my hike most people wanted to know the most memorable moment, if anything scary happened, and if I would do it over again. I struggled with only the first answer. I knew what the most memorable moment was, but did not want to share it with everyone. Maybe it is because it was a moment of personal growth or because I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. Now, over six months after finishing my thru hike I am ready to share my most memorable moment of the trail.

It all started on a rainy morning 10 miles out of Hot Springs, NC. I was awoken by the ominous sound of thunder in the distance and a slight pitter-patter of rain on my tent. I yelled to my friend, Outlet, that I was not getting out of my tent until I was sure the storm had passed. Over the course of an hour we laid about 10 feet apart from each other talking and jumping with each loud clap of thunder. By the time we broke camp it was already 9:30. With a goal of over 20 miles for the day we moved quickly all day. To our surprise we reached our destination at 5 pm. There we met our friend G who was going on past the shelter to make to Erwin, TN as soon as possible. Knowing that Erwin was still some 37 miles away I jokingly told him he should hike all night and get there in the morning. He informed that he would probably not go that far, since it would be a total of 57 miles for the day, but that he planned to go on to the next shelter at least. Outlet and I were still feeling good so we figured getting a few more miles in that day would be worthwhile too.

Before I knew it G, Outlet, and I were hiking well past sundown. As the time passed on the idea of doing a 57-mile day grew stronger. With 35 miles down before midnight we agreed to give it a shot. That left another 22 miles before we would hit the town of Erwin, Tennessee. We walked, talked, laughed, and listened to music for hours. As the night went on and our body hurt more, we talked less and slowed down our pace. The group of us made a pact that if one person wanted to stop, we all would. Of course none of us wanted to be that person.

I can remember wishing that I was asleep in my tent as I stumbled over a cluster of rocks. My headlamp was dim and it was slowing me down, especially as my eyes grew weary. We approached Big Bald, which on a normal day would be a moderate climb but after walking over 40 miles it felt as if we were climbing Mount Everest. Big Bald was the most magical place on the trail for me. They say the average thru hiker takes some 5 million steps to complete the trail and I probably took 50 while I was on Big Bald. Those 50 steps were the most influential of the whole trail.

I noticed the stars immediately. They surrounded us and went on forever. I stood on the summit spinning in circles trying to absorb what I was seeing and feeling. I looked at the stars, amazed and infatuated with their beauty and grandeur for a mere 5 minutes. For the first time in my life I felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and who I was supposed to be. In those moments I was one with the world and with myself. As we hiked through the rest of the night, walked through sunrise, and finally reached Erwin, Tennessee at 11 am. Just shy of 26 hours before we started the impossibly long day. We had made it 57 miles and although I was in disbelief of what I had just done, I couldn’t stop thinking about the stars.

I had seen the stars almost every night of my life, but the night on Big Bald was the first time I had actually looked at them. I realized during my 5 minutes on that mountain how important it is to absorb and appreciate everything that is around you. Whether it’s a spider, flower, or the sky everything holds an immense amount of beauty that is easily overlooked in everyday life. It took me pushing myself harder than I ever had before to see it. The five minutes I watched those stars may have been the best five minutes of my life. The next time you have the chance to look up and see the stars, spin around for a few minutes and take it all in, it could change your life.

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