St. Augustine Family Photographer | Danielle Brooks Photography
St. Augustine Family Photographer and Family Portrait Photography Studio. Specializing in Family Photography, Senior Portraits, and Head Shot Photography.

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St. Augustine photographer specializing in families, children, and seniors.

500 Miles | Appalachian Trail Photographer

You guys! Honestly, our trip to the Appalachian Trail, or AT as we now call it, was epic! E.P.I.C. My grandfather has a cabin in North Carolina, about an hour away from the trail, and we went to stay for a couple of days. The purpose of the trip was to get away and celebrate our 3 year wedding anniversary. We wanted to be out on the trail on our wedding day (May 26th) but it looked like rain, so we ended up pushing our hike up a day, and boy are we glad we did. It POURED the night we got back and all the next day.

We were able to park at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, NOC, and catch the trail head from there. From my research it was nearly a 7 mile hike from the NOC to Wesser Bald and roughly 3,000 ft elevation change. 3,000 FEET people! I was getting a map at REI and this man asked me about our trip, and I told him our segment. He said he's hiked the trail several times and that that portion is one of the hardest on the AT and that we were going to be sore the next day. I looked at him and said, "I do Crossfit 5 days a week, I think I'll be ok." I was super cocky about it too, but man he was not kidding. It was rough. The NOC is literally in the valley of the mountains and we were hiking all the way out of the gorge to the top of the mountains. Because the trail was so steep, Rich and I would walk about 20 yards and have to stop to catch our breath. It took us about 6 hours to hike to the lookout tower. I forgot to mention our packs were roughly 20-25lbs. Most of that weight was our water since there wasn't a reliable source on the trail. One of the things Crossfit has given me is perseverance and determination. When I would get tired and out of breath, I would tell myself that my body wasn't giving up, my mind was. Parts of the trail were just rocks that you had to climb up. Other parts were filled with tree roots you had to tiptoe around. Whenever you wanted to look around, you would have to stop to look around. Wherever your head went, that's where your pack/body went too. If you lost your balance or footing on some parts of the trail, you would literally fall off the mountain. You would seriously be praying you ran into a tree to stop you. When we hike again, we are going to get hiking boots, and trekking poles (We were hiking in sneakers, not recommended.)

Part of our trail was literally on top of the mountain ridge. It was super cool to look down on either side and know you were walking on the ridge. Because the trees were so dense, you rarely got to look out and see where you were. So when the trees cleared, the views were breathtaking. Rich and I have driven to mountain lookouts before, and sure, they are beautiful, but there is something incredible about knowing you hiked so far and so long to get to a view. It is so much more satisfying knowing that you worked for it. No one else can drive to the place you are and see what you are seeing.

There was a shelter about a mile from the lookout tower. Rich and I decided to not stay at the shelter an hiked to the tower. We were able to watch the sunset, and rise. Once the sun set, it was freezing! We quickly found out why people stay in the shelters as opposed to the tower. The wind was crazy! I'm a super light sleeper, so any noise was enough to wake me up and make me think a bear was coming for us. I told Rich before we fell asleep, "If something happens to us, the closest people are a mile away from us!" Life on the trail is so simple. Eat. Walk. Sleep. We brought some cooked chicken and stored it with bags of ice. By the time we ate dinner, the ice had melted, but the water was super cold. It was the best tasting water we have ever had even though it was a little chicken flavored. Our water packs had been sitting on our backs the whole day and were warm. So the cold water was a welcome treat. Our hike back was quick. It only took us about 4ish hours to get back to the NOC. I ended up falling on the trail. The ankle I sprained at the beginning of the year gave out on me. I thankfully was ok and finished the hike without issue, but it was enough to scare me pretty good. We were doing Whole 30 on the trail and when we got back to the NOC we both just wanted burgers. Rich's Fitbit has a heart rate monitor and he burned an estimated 4,000 calories in one day! I imagine, I wasn't far off. We found this burger joint about 20 minutes away and they were the best burgers in the world. We both got burgers with sodas, and then went back for ice cream and coffee.

I am so blessed to share my life with Rich. I have the best husband ever. We both love adventure and this trip is a testimony to our marriage. This past year has been crazy. We have had several people live with us, we both lost our jobs, we both started businesses, and have had a myriad of family things happen. Like hiking the trail, life may be hard, but you are the bright spot in the trees that keeps me going. Through it all we are the best teammates. We encourage one another, challenge one another, and spur one another on to grow. I don't know what I would do without you Rich. You are my best friend, and fellow adventurer. I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more just to be the woman who walks a 1000 miles to be with you. Here is to year 4 and all the challenges it holds.

All these photos were taken with my 5D MK II. Yes, I carried it on the trail with me. I just couldn't leave it. I'm so glad I didn't leave it at home. The photos are worth the hassle. Also, every year Rich and I take photo of us on our anniversary and we hold up the number of years we've been married. Each year we try to take a photo descriptive of what that year has been like. This year we took several on the trail.

None of the images have filters or added elements. They are simply God's beauty captured from my perspective. As Ansel Adams says, I arrived,  "Just when God is ready to have someone click the shutter."

This video is everything. :)