Fast forward one year from when I captured “Find Your Way” and “Let Your Light Shine”...
I was delving deeper into my passion for the natural world than ever before and found myself on my second backpacking adventure. My brother had taken me out for my first experience that April, and boy did I fall in love with everything about it! Itching to get out again, I planned an itinerary in the Autumn for the two of us in Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah was my first National Park, as I had driven through it on the way to his place that April. I chose it for this backpacking excursion because I really wanted to get out on the trails and into the Wilderness of the Park.
Looking back on those four days, it is hard to put into words the spectrum of emotions I experienced, both physically and mentally. The diversity of Autumnal beauty we were immersed in as we hiked down and up and down and up in elevation was nothing short of spectacular!
To say our third day was grueling is putting it mildly. I had planned a hike taking us approximately 8-9 miles while gaining over 2,000 feet of elevation change. As a fairly experienced backpacker now, I have since trekked more daunting tasks. But back then, it almost broke me. I recall at one point, as we were hiking up the last leg of decent elevation gain on the Appalachian Trail en route to Hawksbill Mt., I was (in my head) yelling at myself to “enjoy this man, you are on the AT for the first time!” My body, dehydrated (as I had sucked through my water early) and exhausted, just wanted to fall over down the cliff side. By the time we got to the spring and then chose our camping area for the night, I was nearly in tears of joy for having made it.
I awoke pre-dawn as planned and continued the half-mile to Hawksbill Summit to catch the sunrise. All the aches and pains and struggles were, at the moment of the Sun breaking the horizon, justified into something more grand than I could have imagined. I told my brother, who had met me up there for the moment, that if this photograph came out right I was going to title it “Appreciation”. Appreciation, for what it takes to be out here, for the trials endured and embraced to witness such beauty, for the journey we travel to a new day dawning.
(part 3 of 3)
“Appreciation” - Brandon Kline