Going into our last full expedition my feelings were a mix of sadness and joy. Sadness, because we will soon be going our separate ways, and joy, because I know how happy I am to have accomplished so much.

The first day was sunny and nice, but word was that weather, maybe rain was coming. The hike along the Appalachian Trail was nice, not bad at all, despite some annoying bugs, like the worm that fell on Mr. Dan’s face.

Day two began with a cold morning, but soon we were hiking on the AT again, alongside a raging river. As we came around a corner, we saw the start of what would be the worst traverse I have ever faced. It seemed to never end, but when we finally reached the top, we were at my favorite camp spot of the expedition, Saunders Shelter. From a stream nearby, I took a cold bath under the hot sun. Midway through the night, however, I woke to the sound of rain on my tent.

The rain had stopped by the time I got up on day three. We left the AT, and hiked to a great, gorgeous camp under a towering trestle along the Virginia Creeper Trail. There, the rain turned into snow. At about 3:00 a.m., Jessie and I woke up to find our tent caving in under the snow, literally on top of us.

Later that morning, we packed up and hiked through the falling snow to our next camp. There, the snowfall increased dramatically, so we jumped into our tents for a nice 14 hours of sleep.

On day five, the sun came out just for us. The hike was wonderful, up and up, past beautiful views of the snow covered valley, to the Tri-State marker, where Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee converge. This brought me full circle to my first expedition, back in January, when we also hiked to the Tri-State. This time, it looked different, because I was able to see it as a part of something incredible that I have done. We camped just below the Tri-State, where the snow had given way to grass, and we were finally able to dry out our gear.

On the sixth day, which was also my 18th birthday, we hiked our last hike together. This was our “first last” which, for me, marked not an ending, but the beginning of a new and amazing journey of growth toward developing the strength I am discovering in myself.

I want to give a special, “Thank you,” to Mr. Mike who has taught me so much about life, and the amazing outdoors.

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