The world on a trail

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

A Memorable TripKeith Krejci...

February 07, 1999

The world on a trail; A Memorable Trip

Keith Krejci, Special to the Sun

Within a day's drive of more than half the population of the United States can be found a place unlike any other. A place where every person is responsible for himself or herself but cannot survive without the help of others. A place where best friends can be made in minutes and nothing is taken for granted. The place of which I speak is the Appalachian Trail -- a continuous footpath running the crest of the mountain range from Georgia to Maine.

In early spring I set out from Springer Mountain in Georgia to start what would be a 2,160-mile hike of a lifetime. The first 500 miles took me through the Smoky Mountains, after which a weeklong festival, called Trail Days and dedicated to hikers, waited for me in Damascus, Va. In this state, with the largest number of miles on the trail, all personal barriers are broken down, revealing only your true strength and determination.

Once I reached the halfway point in southern Pennsylvania, the idea that I could walk to Maine became a reality, not just an unfathomable dream. Before I knew it, I was in New England, enjoying the clear, cold streams flowing high in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I soared well above the tree line in the majestic White Mountains of New Hampshire and watched moose drink from a serene pond in Maine. As I headed north and caught my first glimpse of Mount Katahdin -- the "Greatest Mountain" -- I began to realize what I'd actually spent my last five months doing. My beard had grown rugged, my hair wild, and all those extra, unnecessary pounds had long since left my body. I had just through-hiked the Appalachian Trail.

The Appalachian Trail is not so much a wilderness experience as one centered on community. Never before have I had such a large and loving family. Trail names such as "Outta Chocolate," "Hansel and Gretel," and "Nimblewill Nomad" allow you to leave your past and become a hiker, the equal of every other person on the trail. "Trail angels" work "trail magic" by leaving coolers of sodas by road crossings, offering rides into towns to get pizza and extra provisions, or just being a friend when you need a little help. A through-hike on the Appalachian Trail restores your faith and trust in a somewhat degenerate society. When living a simple life in the woods, void of extraneous possessions, you don't have the energy to hide the true feelings in your soul. Lifelong friendships happen in minutes, and a smile on a cold, rainy day can be the greatest gift given.

Keith Krejci lives in Timonium.

An eyeful of Italy; My Best Shot

By Lieselotte E. Kurth, Towson

"This photo was taken in the Val d'Ultimo of northern Italy. My sojourn, the third one in this part of Europe, was once again an exciting experience. The people are cordial and hospitable. Small mountain roads with countless S-curves are a challenge to any driver, but they offer many rewards -- beautiful vistas and cozy inns with excellent Austrian, German and Italian cuisine."

JUST BACK FROM...

Antarctica

Larry and Vida Sharpless, Baltimore

"We spent Christmas in Antarctica and saw some of the most magnificent scenery and exciting wildlife we've ever seen; that's compared to Asia, Europe, South America and Alaska. We were entertained by penguins, seals, whales and giant albatross and petrels."

The Poconos

Brianna Frendak, Forest Hill

"Over the holidays, our family experienced the best Shawnee Mountain has to offer. Great package deals, excellent conditions, and every skier's dream -- no lift lines. It is the most awesome skiing in the Poconos. "

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Pub Date: 02/07/99

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