I’m actually supposed to be working at my internship right now, but an idea’s in my head and I can’t get it out.
I have a really bad habit of suddenly wanting to flee (escapist, remember?). And right now, with spring break so close on my heels, I want to flee to NATURE.
Originally, I was planning on such a chill spring break. One where I didn’t need to spend money and where I could recharge before getting back to that school grind again. But, I don’t know, is that me? I would feel so sucky if I just bummed around at home for spring break.
Also, lately, I’ve been feeling really grossly lethargic and what’s-the-point-of-all this lately, which I’m hoping is more because of the weather than a recurrence of depression smacking me in the face.
So, I talked to my best friend about it; she also goes through periods like this. She asked me what I would do if I could do just one thing at this moment. And I said I wanted to go hiking.
Thus, my spree of Appalachian/Smoky Mountains research begun. Why those national parks? Well, I kind of also promised my grandparents I’d be visiting them in North Carolina, which happens to be in those vicinities. (Here I cheated and enlisted their help in finding me a roundtrip plane ticket while I secretly searched for things to do other than being a great granddaughter)
I don’t recommend this by the way. Spontaneity is hugely fun and rewarding, but soul-sucking in a financial sort of way.
While doing my research, I felt like I was trying to learn about the entire trail. As a pretty visual person, it’s hard just to go off of city names and then trying to locate accommodations and whether or not there’s even a trail nearby. And there are no comprehensive guides for me to start with!
It just had me all frantic.
From experiences, spontaneity in this regard is bad. You need to know the surroundings, the types of accommodation available and the general mood of the town. If you go in with no accommodation planned, you’re either going to sleep in your car or shell out $200 more than you wanted to for a 8-room cabin all to yourself.
But I think I finally figured it out. You can follow my process if you’re having similar difficulties.
First, I narrowed it down to a section of the Appalachian/Smoky Mountains that I’d want to hike. For me, it’s anywhere in North Carolina and the closest from where my grandparents are. The closest one is about 5 hours and 45 minutes away.
Ok, no big…
Second, I googled that area. I chose Hot Springs, NC. The trails, accommodation, quality of the overall place. Read a ton of reviews and then google some pictures so you know what you’re getting. Either way, anywhere near a national park is beautiful, so I would just worry about the availability and popularity of the place. Find the perfect balance between isolated and so crowded you’re basically breathing in someone else’s mouth.
You have to check out what kind of trails you’ll be getting and if it’s worth it. I’m not going to drive almost 6 hours away just so I can walk 15 minutes of trail. That’s a waste of time. Make sure it’s not too difficult for you to tackle either.
Once you’ve picked a few trails you think would be fun to try, check out the accommodations, if you want any. Now 6 hours each way… that’s 12 hours out of my day. If I leave around 6 a.m., I’d get there by 12. 6 hours isn’t bad enough to absolutely need accommodation, but if things get really fun, it might be a good idea. If you google your area and add the word hostel, there’s bound to be some cropping up. Be careful though—research smartly. Ask around, check out their reputation.
I didn’t know this before I started researching, but national parks are full of hostels. Maybe not inside the parks, but nearby park entrances not too far away. And hostels are cheaper than renting out whole cabins by yourself. This is by far the better option unless you really don’t want any interaction with people. Understandable if you’ve been hiking with a group the entire day, but if you’re going alone, you can get your social fix here.
I have to warn you though, that people who haven’t been extensively on the trails are usually called slackpackers by those that have been. This term is derogatory and I don’t know how much this affects interactions with your fellow bunkers—I’ll report on this—but just a head’s up.
Also, this insane urge to backpack/hike may die by the time I reach my grandparents’ but I figured there needed to be some informational research done on these parks anyways.
Have you ever backpacked through national parks? I’d LOVE to hear about your experiences, tips, whatever you have to share!