Hiker of the Week – Cassie Smith

2015-10-02 17.08.31Home has never been a house, on a street, in a town for me. For me, home is in the wild and on the trail. Home has been on the Frey Trail at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. It has been on the trail to Gleasman Falls in the Adirondack Park, New York. It has been hiking through the soft pine needles of the beautiful Redwoods in Sequoia National Park, California. It has been pacing myself through the sands at Arches National Park, Utah. Hiking has given me an insatiable hunger for more. To do more, to see more, and to be more.
Hiking has always been in my life, although I haven’t always had the appreciation I do now for it. My mom likes to remind me of the time I was six years old, she and my grandma had to bribe me with ice cream to finish our hike out of the PA Grand Canyon. However, as I got older and stronger I enjoyed our hikes more and looked forward to the time that would be spent hiking, talking, and laughing with my two favorite women ever.
My love for hiking also stemmed from going hunting with my pap. To get to my tree stand I had to climb the mountain which meant heading out in the darkness of the morning. I would start out, shivering in my t-shirt, backpack strapped on, walking stick in hand, and headlamp shining. Pretty soon I would find my pace and start looking for landmarks to find my way to the top. Eventually I make it to my stand in the mountain laurel and standing there in the dark with the snow melting on my sweaty skin, coyotes howling in the coal flats, I would get this indescribable feeling. I did it. I belong here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. So began my love for hiking and conquering.
Although I do enjoy hiking with my family, I often prefer hiking alone. I am a very solitary person and love my alone time and hiking is one of the best ways to get that. When I started hiking by myself, my family voiced many, I’ll admit-valid, concerns… and they still do. However, I have never once felt unsafe out in the wilderness and I have faith in my abilities. When I am out there hiking there’s nothing else. There’s no stress over nursing school, no worrying about money, there’s no “how does my hair look?”- all you have to do us put one foot in front of the other.
After graduating college I am thru hiking the Appalachian Trail alone. I have been told repeatedly that it is dangerous and difficult and that I wouldn’t even make it halfway. But to these people I just smile because I know myself, I know my capabilities, and I know I am stubborn… I will not quit.
I want to be an inspiration to other young women, to get out there in the wild by yourself. If you are knowledgeable and safe there is absolutely no reason why you cannot do it alone. Get out there on the trail and find yourself, because there is absolutely nothing better than that indescribable feeling… completely, unapologetically wild.

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