Special Studies: Take a Hike!

Almost nothing can compare with hiking alongside the former record holder for fastest hike of the Appalachian trail (or AT), sitting in a 150 degree steam room with 5 other people, and being smacked in the face by a brisk gust of wind repeatedly. The 11 students and two teachers who went on the Take A Hike special studies trip got to experience these things, and many more, during our stay in Asheville, NC.

On the first day of the week, the crew hiked the entire Cottonwood trail, while JJ and Stephen unicycled it. Later, Scott Neely came to talk with us about when he hiked the AT after college. He is an advocate of “ultralight” hiking, which entails sleeping in a sleeping bag cut in half, using a tuna can as a stove, and using only a tarp as a tent. It is safe to say that we didn’t go ultralight on our trip!

On Tuesday, we made the drive up to Asheville and met Jennifer Pharr Davis, the former record holder for the fastest hike of the AT. All of us hiked 4 miles at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic site. Thankfully, Jennifer didn’t hike that fast, or we all would been left in the dust, even with some trekking poles! After the hike, we drove up to the house Jennifer rented for us. We were all happy to discover an electricity powered steam room (which we would all take advantage of). After we got all settled in, we played a game called 2 Truths and a Lie, in which a person tells two truths and a lie (duh) and the others have to guess which statement is the lie. Later we played movie charades, and ended the night with a couple of games of Manhunt.

On Wednesday, we split up into two groups. The first group hiked up a mountain to Rattlesnake Lodge, a mountain getaway built in the late 19th century, but which has since turned to ruins. Then we hiked up even further and saw some absolutely beautiful hoarfrost, little ice shards that form around branches, leaves, and grass. Then, while the second group did what the first group did first, the first group did what the second group did first, which was hike on a trail next to a river to eventually see a towering waterfall. The sight was absolutely amazing. After both groups convened back at the lodge, we all took turns enjoying the steam room (which was magnificent), followed by taking ice cold showers. After we all had dinner, we cuddled in the seniors’ room and watched Everest (which personally made me not want to go hiking the next day, or ever again, for that matter) and then went to sleep.

On Thursday, we split up into the same groups as we did the day before. Both groups hikes different 5 mile stretches of the AT, but they were said to be pretty similar hikes. After both groups were done, we feasted on ice cream, and then treated ourselves to an hour of relaxing in a hot tub. It was magnificent. The only bad part was when we got out of the hot tub because at that exact moment, a huge gust of wind blew through and sent us all shivering. But we still had a great time.

The happy hikers assembled.
The happy hikers assembled.

When we made it back to our house, I told my infamous Green Golfball story, and then everyone started telling riddles that we were all challenged to solve as a group. It was so fun!

On Friday, the final day of our trip, we started the day off right with a huge Appalachian breakfast, complete with bacon, eggs, omelets, apple butter, and some excellent pancakes. Then, we went on perhaps the most scenic hike of the whole trip. We saw a massive waterfall, and the spray that came off the bottom was absolutely refreshing. After the hike, JJ and I sang a cover of Taylor Swift’s Love Story o Jennifer, which we wrote while at breakfast (she loved it), and then we headed home, satisfied with the amazing trip.


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