Ever since I was about eight years old I've wanted to travel out west. When I was a kid I would beg my parents to take me to Yellowstone and, later, to Yosemite. A lot of the kids I went to school with would bring their summer vacation photos to class and I'd see them--Old Faithful, Grand Teton, Yellowstone Falls, El Capitain, Half Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, grizzly bears, bison, elk...the list goes on.
My parents never were able to take me to Yellowstone, or anywhere else out west. In my thirties I was able to travel to California, but only on business, and the only time I got to hike out there was in the state park on Mount Palomar and at Cabrillo National Monument. Nice hikes, but hardly the kind of thing I wanted to see in the west.
When I was in high school, the brothers I hiked the Appalachians with spent one summer vacation hitting the western parks with their parents. They hiked all over the big peaks and got to visit the places I'd dreamed of. "Once you see the Rockies, you'll throw pebbles at the Appalachians," one of my pals told me. I couldn't imagine doing that, but it let me know how truly spectacular the western high country is.
In honor of my upcoming 2010 trip to the western mountains, I've decided to post a few photos of some of my favorite hiking spots in the eastern high country. Just so I'll be reminded not to throw pebbles at them when I return from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
On my favorite hiking trail, the Black Mountain Crest Trail, North Carolina. My favorite because every few feet you're gasping. Either because of the rugged terrain, or because of the amazing views.