My name is Samantha, and I have never climbed a tree. Judging from the appalled reactions I get whenever I tell this to people, I have to assume that tree-climbing is just a fundamental part of any normal childhood. Perhaps there is something about the challenge of climbing, of finding secure holds for your hands and feet. Or maybe there is something about the sheer thrill of towering over anything and everything else, of the satisfaction in realizing your new position is the product of your own strength. I never have climbed a tree, so I don’t know if that is even remotely correct. Nevertheless, surely tree-climbing must foster the innate qualities of adventure, discovery, and curiosity held in every child. Surely it establishes and strengthens the connection between humanity and nature.
My never having climbed a tree is the product of two things: one, I never really liked getting my hands dirty, and I honestly could never bring myself to do it because I was scared. Being raised in a household where being safe, tidy, and reserved was superior to being daring, messy, and outspoken, I often found myself shying away from opportunities and activities which required any speck of boldness. But as I have gotten older, have moved away for college, and have been exposed to a plethora of world views and attitudes towards life, I’ve come to adopt a renewed appreciation for adventure and child-like wonder. There is nothing quite like living life at least somewhat close to the edge. I have learned that being timid is a hindrance to learning from experience, and that sometimes falling down and failing is exponentially more valuable than staying safe and never knowing what waits around the corner.
All this to say, exploration is important! Stay fascinated. Be curious. Take chances. Discover more. Worry less. Go climb a tree.
And now enjoy some photos from our family’s trip out West, in which my desire for adventure was overwhelmingly satiated and some child-like wonder was coaxed out of all of us:
Day 1: Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah
Day 2: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Day 3: Arches National Park, Utah
Day 4: Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Day 5: Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Day 6: Chinatown, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, California
Day 7: Fisherman’s Wharf, Santa Cruz, Seventeen-Mile Drive, Big Sur, California
Day 8: Yosemite National Park, California
Day 9: Point Reyes Lighthouse, California
Today was my first day back for Thanksgiving break. Instead of sleeping in like what I probably would’ve done, Brandon and I headed out at around 9am to hike to the Jump Off. It’s a lesser-known destination in the Smokies, but it definitely deserves a lot more attention.
The drive up was beautiful. We caught the leaves in their end stages of transitioning from fall to winter. Quite a few of the trees were still colored bright red, orange, or yellow. Eventually, we got to Newfound Gap where the hike began. It was around three miles to the Jump Off from the trailhead. Luckily enough for me, the hike was pretty easy and not that strenuous.
At our final elevation of 6130 feet, we were greeted with a beautiful view. But if you’re asking yourself, why does it look like there’s a layer of smoke over the mountains?, it’s because there definitely was. The whole hike up smelled like a burnt out campfire. We drove back from the Smokies literally smelling like smoke. It was an unfortunate consequence of the forest fires that have been occurring across Tennessee and North Carolina. Nevertheless, a little smoke wasn’t able to cover up the beauty that was the Great Smoky Mountains. It felt good to be back. (And I had a great hiking buddy. Thanks for hiking with me, Bro.)
It was a beautiful day to take a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s funny how something can be so breathtakingly beautiful yet can be so easily overlooked. I think many east Tennesseans take it for granted; the mountains are such an essential part of our backdrop that we simply get used to it and forget they even exist.
Today I went with four of my friends to hike the Chimneys. Though the name may suggest an easy climb, the four mile round trip hike was painfully exhausting, even when it was my fourth time hiking the trail. We took several water breaks which we were all grateful for. It took maybe two hours to reach the top, where we then faced a large, steep rock. We climbed its surface, like how you would if you were to go bouldering. Eventually we reached the top, and our sweat, blood, and maybe a few tears (kidding…) were greatly rewarded. All of the pictures I could take from the peak would never do it justice. The mountains never ended. Far away, we could see the road we drove to get to the trailhead snaking around the hills. From where we stood, the road looked as if it were fit for an ant. It made me feel so small standing up there.
Hiking is always a humbling experience. What’s even better is that I always get to share this experience with friends or family. It’s a great bonding experience and a really fun, effective way to get in your exercise.
If you ever need something to do, try going on a hike. Chances are you wont regret it.