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Have you ever felt as if you were in a rut? Some years ago, me, my brother and daughter went hiking on the Appalachian Trail on the North Carolina, Tennessee border. It is an area called the Bald Mountains because you actually walk over the tops of the mountains. It is grasslands and a few short trees, but you are able to see in all directions for miles and miles.

My youngest brother had just gotten married. After the wedding, we set out for Boone, North Carolina, where we spent the night. The next morning, we departed bright and early for our destination.

The area where we accessed the trail was a very popular location for day hikers. Now, we had been on many sections of the Appalachian Trail, but we had never encountered what we saw here. Understand that over 2,000 people begin this trail each spring. When you add the number who day hike, you come to understand that there is a great deal of traffic on the trail, but there is more in some places than others depending on how majestic the sights are. The Bald Mountain area is very popular.

We began by ascending a long row of steps that were actually logs to help with the footing. When we got to the top, the views were breathtaking, but walking was very difficult in some places. Why you ask? There were ruts in the trail. In fact, the trail itself was one long rut. So many people had walked that trail that it had actually worn it down. In some places, the rut was as much as a foot deep. Since it was not very wide--about the size of a footpath--it was very difficult to walk in. Your feet tended to hit the sides of the rut. It was easy to stumble and fall if you were not careful.

What we chose to do in places was to avoid the rut. This we did--and it appeared many others had also, by stepping outside the rut. Those who maintain the trail discourage this because it widens the trail, but it was just so inconvenient to walk in the rut.

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