January 30, 2014

My Story

Since I've asked other hikers to share how they started hiking, I figured it's time to share my story.


I grew up in northwest Georgia on a farm near Lookout Mountain; walking the woods and pastures with my parents was a weekly pleasure. While it was fun for me, it was an opportunity for my father to check the pasture fences to make sure all was okay. We also walked the country dirt roads near our home, and one time in particular, I talked my parents into letting me bring home a stray dog that I named Buffy. Such was life in the country.


As the youngest of four children, I played in the woods with two older brothers, built "forts" in the woods with neighbors, and tried to stay out of my sister’s bedroom to avoid being a bratty sister.  My daddy loved the outdoors and when he wasn't working on the farm, in the garden, or at his job, he would take my two brothers on hunting trips or hikes in the woods or mountains. Sometimes I was able to tag along on a hike to Lookout Mountain near Cloudland, Georgia.

With the "Big Guy," April, 1976

As luck would have it, I met the son of another farmer.  Together we enjoyed a hike on the farm every now and then. We fell in love and got married.  Out first home was on a farm and we frequently hiked in the afternoon after work through the woods and pastures to a beautiful knoll.  Progress called so we moved to Atlanta, started new jobs, worked, had two children, worked some more, and one day decided to move back to our roots--the mountains of northwest Georgia. 

With special friend, Mary Patrick, atop Albert Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. 

Before moving from Atlanta, I met Mary Patrick at a Berry College alumni event.  She was a lifelong hiker and shared wonderful stories about hiking trips with her late husband as well as current hikes with a hiking club in the northeast Georgia mountains.  She was very knowledgeable about trails, hiking gear, and has served as my mentor.

The Roman Ramblers

It's important for me to have social outlets because I work from home. I began hiking frequently in 2011 after becoming acquainted with a ladies group in Rome, Georgia that hiked weekly on the trails at Berry College. I enjoyed these weekly hikes:  being outdoors, socializing with others, and getting some great exercise. I wanted to hike more than once a week so I searched the internet and located meetup groups and hiking clubs that were hiking all over north Georgia, northeast Alabama, and Tennessee: Chattanooga Hiking Meetup, Tennessee Wild Meetup, Hike Georgia Meetup, Mountain High Hikers (Blairsville), Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, and Chattanooga Hiking Club.

At the intersection of the Miegs Mountain and Jakes Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

These groups and clubs connected me with others who shared the same interest and passion for hiking. Here it is three years later, having hiked hundreds of miles with many new friends, explored countless new trails, and hiked in the snow in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Little did I know what a wonderful hobby it was and how it would benefit my physical and mental health.  If my schedule allows, I love to hike three times per week.

Carver's Gap in the Pisgah - Cherokee National Forest 
Of course, I didn't start out hiking three times per week.  This type of schedule will help you accumulate some mileage, but may also affect your body. Beware of foot, knee, and leg problems (plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and heel spurs) which can quickly sideline any hiker.  I had to rest my feet for three months due to plantar fasciitis in early 2012 after becoming too zealous for mileage. There's no easy cure for this common ailment to many hikers and runners.

Descending Big Hump Mountain in the Roan Highlands.  
Staying at a healthy weight improves stamina and endurance.  There's nothing worse than huffing and puffing along the trail and realizing you shouldn't have eaten that cheeseburger or slice of carrot cake. Physical and mental health contributes significantly to a good quality of life. Recognizing the physical benefits of hiking is easy: cardiovascular, weight management, flexibility, balance, blood pressure, and stamina. However, I can't stress enough how therapeutic hiking is for me. Like anyone in their "middle ages," I've had a few regrets, but hiking has helped me place them in the proper prospective.  When you're on the trail, all your cares and troubles melt away.  You're concentrating on the next step, the next climb, or conversing with fellow hikers. Reaching the summit of the mountain or seeing that beautiful waterfall or vista is my mental "high."

Climbing Big Hump Mountain in the Roan Highlands. 

One of my favorite hiking trips was a 2013 trip to Roan Mountain, Tennessee with the Chattanooga Hiking Club. Ten hikers enjoyed an 8-mile trek on the Appalachian trail in the "Roan Highlands."  Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains are grassy balds with a 365-degree view of the surrounding mountains.

Abrams Falls near Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains.
My favorite region to hike is the Great Smoky Mountains.  Fortunately, I have several hiking friends who also love this area and are willing to share their time and knowledge with me by leading group hikes on a regular basis. It is helpful to surround yourself with others who have more knowledge than you.  For example, one of my more experienced hiking friends suggested I purchase a trail map of the Smokies and mark the map whenever I've completed a trail.

My advice to anyone who wants to start hiking is to seek out others with the same interest. Perhaps there is a hiking club in your town, a meetup group, or better yet--start your own group with friends and acquaintances. Everyone has to start somewhere and surrounding yourself with other like minds helps keep you focused. Don't worry about purchasing all that fancy gear at one time--it takes months and years to accumulate.  Your local outdoor recreation outfitter can help select proper footwear which is the most important item for beginning hikers.  (Here is a previous post entitled "Be Kind to Your Feet.")

On a sunset hike to Sunset Rock on the west brow of Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga. 

If you're looking for a new hobby and you enjoy traveling, meeting new people, being outdoors, or just looking for a new adventure, I strongly recommend hiking.  It is difficult to put in words how hiking has enriched my life.  It can also enrich yours!  I hope you've been inspired and motivated by my story.

"Keep On Hiking."


  1. Barbara,

    What an interesting post! I also enjoyed all the great pictures. Can't wait to read more.

    Judy Brooks

    1. Thank you, Judy. This post was tough for me to write, but I have a great editor!