Thursday, June 22, 2006


Warning: More Appalachian Trail subject matter below.

Last night I watched an amazing documentary about four guys from North Carolina, all in their early twenties, and their pursuit of conquering the 2,168 mile Appalachian Trail. The "Four Horsemen", the name they give to themselves, take turns in the roles of narrator, subject, videographer and ultimately editor to create Trek. These guys are regular guys, the type of dudes you probably ran around with in high school and college. Their personalities are what makes a good film with great scenery into a great production. You have two guys that are the eternal optimist, one who is questioning his will to continue from day one on the trail and a fourth who has the drive but has family & personal issues that keep him from achieving all that he wants (watch the film). Outside of the main four, we get to meet a dozen or so characters that the group encounters along the way. Some look like misguided hippies trying to find themselves but others are regular Joes, retired teachers or just plain avid hikers who want to tackle the trail (one of these hikers, "Sheriff", is the owner of the Baja Cafe' in Damascus). Since everyone has the same goal, this creates a family-like support group among the hikers. If you've ever talked to a thru-hikers about their journey, they'll tell you that this relationship with your fellow hiker is not limited just to this film.

One other aspect that made the film great was watching the reception the hikers received from each little community that the trail winds through. Places like Hot Springs, Damascus, Harper's Ferry. I was somewhat surprised at the overwhelming hospitality the hikers found north of the Mason-Dixon line. Maybe it's just my Southern bigotry toward Yankees but I wasn't expecting to see entire communities coming together at town parks to have a pot-luck dinner for hikers. This is something these towns do on a weekly basis the entire summer, just to be good, nice Appalachian folk. You see the mountain spirit of hospitality transcending any north-south sense of place.

Lastly, the scenery. Try to imagine walking the ridges of the Smokies, Blue Ridge, Allegheny, Green and White Mountains and all of the cliffs, critters, sunsets, sunrises, plants, pastures and people that you would see. Now imagine being overwhelmed by this for 6 months. Better yet, watch the film and get a taste of it for two hours. You'll be ready to hike the trail once the credits roll. Here's the trailer link page just as a teaser. If you like what you see there, check out Amazon or the Appalachian Trail Conference for DVD purchases.

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