I am from a small rural town in south central Pennsylvania. My family has lived in two homes in the area. The first sits less than a mile from the Appalachian trail. The second, where I spent over 10 years, is two miles from the trail. On any given day I could go out and spend a hour or an afternoon on the trail. One weekend a month for years I was out camping with my scout troop, more often than not at locations along the trail.
Growing up I never gave much thought to the significance of living so close to one of the most iconic long distance footpaths in the world. My friends and I spent a lot of time outside, roaming from one adventure to another. But I didn’t consider myself outdoorsy. I didn’t know that was a thing. I was just a kid exploring and enjoying the wild places near my home.
It wasn’t until years later, after living away from home in such amazing places as Austria and Utah, that I decided to make the outdoors my lifestyle. Then one day, almost a decade after moving away from Pennsylvania, it finally dawned on me that those halcyon days spent playing in the woods, hiking and camping near the Appalachian Trail, had profoundly informed the direction of my life. I owe some of my most fulfilling experiences to the moments when a love of nature was quietly kindled in the simple woods and not-quite-mountains of Pennsylvania.
So, each time that I am visiting my family, I go back and pay homage to the place where it all started. And no matter where else I have lived or traveled or explored, I am thrilled with each moment in the Pennsylvania woods.
I chose a familiar hike to celebrate the new year in 2016. Beginning at Camp Penn on Old Forge Road I hiked northward on the Appalachian Trail toward Chimney Rock. To create a loop I followed Tumbling Run trail past the Tumbling Run shelter on the way up and then took the Appalachian the entire way back down.
Despite being early January – normally a frigid time in this part of the country – it was a balmy 38 degrees with blue skies and light wind. My short seven mile hike was over far too quickly. But it was enough to say that I started 2016 on the right foot, and in the right place.