Ouch was my second, followed closely by “Oh God, everyone saw that,” as my foot plunged into the inch-deep water and the right side of my body caught a large tree root.
I had promised myself that I would not fall. I would not get too tired; I would persevere. Especially after my editor had tried to talk me out of the particular hike, telling me that a seven-mile hike with a 1000-foot elevation gain was not the best choice for my first real hike, ever. But her apprehension only made me more stubborn. I would show her. I am young and spry. Seven miles? Pshaw.
I thought of that as I fell, and the other 14 people on the Saturday hike, all following behind the hike leader and myself, jokingly shouted a chorus of “You can write about this in your column.”
I chose the moderately ranked hike with Carolina Mountain Club because it seemed the most interesting. It took us on a lesser-known trail in Moore’s Cove, which featured downed logs and some overgrowth that acted as exciting obstacles along the way. The description also promised a couple of waterfalls.
I was a bit anxious when I arrived. I didn’t know how many people would join the hike. Would it be awkward? After all, I didn’t know anyone — and I was just some young pup tagging along, too green to know whether I would make it to the end of the trail or find myself collapsing into a heap along the way.
I bought a school backpack at Walmart (please forgive me, just an hour before the hike I realized I didn’t have one) to keep my notebook and lunch. I was sporting jeans, running shoes, cotton socks (I know, I know – cotton kills) and an old T-shirt.
The people going on the hike would be seasoned and would have actual hiking gear, not just what they could scrounge up at the last minute. But just as Tim Black from Nantahala Outdoors Center had told me, hikers are a welcoming community, whether walking together for a few hours or a couple days on the Appalachian Trail.
Along the trail, sandwiched between views of waterfalls, sprouting flora and animal remnants, is plenty of get-to-know-you time. By the end, you’ve talked to nearly everyone along the way – listening to their life story and relaying yours.
In an “it’s a small world” twist, there was even an older woman from near my hometown on the hike (southern Indiana). And if that weren’t enough, she was a lawyer for a law firm that my mother once worked for. We talked about the mutual places we knew, about how we ended up in Western North Carolina and how we thought our team, the Louisville Cardinals, would fare in the next day’s NCAA March Madness game.
Despite my initial anxieties, I finished the hike, sore, albeit no worse for wear.