As I See It

Richard and his daughter Allison pause for a selfie during their hike

It was late summer about

two years ago that I decided to take my oldest daughter to hike the A.T. with me. It was to be a bonding moment for she was to be leaving for a new job out of the city where we lived and I realized it would be a long time before she would return.

As a long-time hiker, Damascus, Virginia has always been a favorite town stop for me — easy to access, with multiple parking areas close to the Trail. I decided to do a quick overnighter north of town, driving to Elk Garden at Va 600 to park and hike in about 4.5 miles. It would be a fairly easy hike to the Thomas Knob Shelter and then set up camp surrounded by picturesque mountains and panoramic views.

I wanted this to be a special time that she would remember. I also wanted her to realize why I enjoyed hiking the A.T., what makes the Trail so special, and its importance. I wanted her to enjoy being out and being with me but more importantly I wanted her to get it, to connect to the Trail.

The hike was complimented by warm sunny weather and blue skies. Along the way, she took pictures of the wild ponies, the special fauna growing along the Trail, and the beautiful landscape surrounding us.

Allison enjoys the moment on the Trail

Later in the day, after we had chosen our campsite, just below Rhododendron Gap, we prepared dinner. We were sitting there finishing our food and looking out across the vast countryside among the treetops when, lost in my own thoughts, I felt her grab my forearm with a tight grip, that startled me. I turned to her as she said, “listen, do you hear that?” I paused, wondered what she had heard, and slightly turned my head to listen. A beat later, I turned back toward her and looking right at her said, “what?” She replied, with a slight smile on her face, “nothing.” At that moment, there was a connection and I knew she got it.

In the vast outdoors, where a father and daughter were dwarfed by sweeping scenery at an elevation of more than 5,400-feet, there was complete silence. At that particular instant, there was no wind to rustle the leaves on a tree, no airplanes overhead or traffic below, no other hikers close by in conversation, no birds chirping or squirrels scampering. There was just the presence of two people, a father and his daughter, having that special moment never to forget.

Richard Diehl


“As I See It” is a column from guest contributors representing the full range of ATC partners, members, and volunteers. To submit a column (700 words or under) for consideration:

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Appalachian Trail Conservancy
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