6 days ago
Most thru hikers get the itch to return to the trail in the Spring, when the 90% of thru hikers start their journey.
I am a Southbounder. Southbounders choose not to walk with Spring, but to run from winter. On the Appalachian Trail, run from snow in the Smokies. On the Pacific Crest Trail, in the Sierra.
Because we start in the summer and walk through fall, I always get the itch to return to the trail in July, when I started my thru hikes.
So it was only natural that on the first day of July I set foot on the Appalachian Trail at Carver's Gap near Roan Mountain, Tennessee.
I was excited for this trip to the Roans not only for my trailversary, but also because I'd heard that Gray's Lily were in bloom.
Gray's Lily are found in only three places in the Southeast, in the highlands of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Because they are so rare, I was expecting to see just one or two during my entire hike!
I was shocked when I came across dozens and dozens of perfectly formed beautiful red bells. Gray's Lily only grow in a few spots in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. They are susceptible to fungal infections, so there are some excellent signs posted by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Forest Service discouraging touch around the more accessible blooms closest to Carver's Gap.
I had a beautiful hike in the moody sunrise of the southern summer while the day decided if it wanted to be bluebird or a washout. I felt grateful to be on my home trail on the first day of the trip that changed my life five years later, and even more grateful to still carry the lessons of that trail in my head and heart.