Alpine Zone explores a 28-year-old woman’s journey to rediscover oneself by undertaking a daunting challenge: thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Presenting herself with a test of physical and mental capabilities, and an opportunity to interact with like-minded travelers, the 6-month journey is sure to have a deep impact on the filmmakers’ life.

Like the famous Bob Dylan song suggests, “times, they are a changin’” seems to always ring true, to every generation. Each new age group seems to face challenges and expectations on many levels. Today’s generations are expected to be married, own a home, have started a career and be on their way to having their first child by the ripe age of 30. But, the times, they are a changing and with that comes a new feeling of uncertainty and desire toward self-discovery.

Starting in the Spring of 2012, filmmaker Kori Feener begins her journey to hike more than 2,000 miles, from start to finish, on the Appalachian Trail. Formally known as thru-hiking, out of the thousands that attempt it, somewhere around 20 percent actually complete the thru-hike. The tension of her decision to complete this journey is felt immediately though the opposition of close friends and family.

Through a reflexive and personal point-of-view storytelling and a cinema verite style of shooting, the documentary will engage the audience to join Feener on this life-changing experience through nature.

The themes of the film are simple and will follow through the entire process. By taking a pause out of the everyday existence and breaking life into simple moments, and simple survival needs, the filmmaker will attempt to open a new chapter in life. One aimed at appreciating the beauty of the world, while continuing to move forward and not dwell on what is left behind.

Alpine Zone is about walking through life and preserving it, while allowing for the continuation of growth and discovery. Like the natural region where it gets its name, the film deals with a delicate landscape, both literal and figurative. Where every step matters and every decision can be the difference between the end or continuation of emotional and physical growth.

What’s In a Title?

“Why is your documentary called Alpine Zone?” Good question.  And I have an even better answer! 😉

First, what is an alpine zone? Well, it is actually called an alpine tundra, or an alpine biome, but most of the signage that indicates it along the Appalachian Trail specifies it as a “zone”.  And let’s face it, zone sounds way more interesting and intense than biome or tundra. Come to think of it biome reminds me of a Pauly Shore movie and as entertaining as Pauly Shore might be, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of people confusing my documentary for Bio Dome.

The alpine zone is dependent on elevation.  As the tallest life zone, it can be found at any latitude on the earth, but the elevation it begins at depends solely on where you are.  The Appalachian Trail runs along the largest alpine environment in the United States east of the Rockies; the White Mountain National Forest.

The alpine zone is a wild and delicate landscape where plants grow close to the earth for protection against all of nature’s harshest elements.  These plants and species are extremely vulnerable to human impact because it takes them a long time to grow.  As a matter of fact, the environment can be so rough that hikers are often warned of the perils that might lie ahead. 

Where is the first time along the Appalachian Trail that the alpine zone is reached? Mt. Moosilauke in New Hampshire.  Well, why on earth would this be relevant to a story about a woman looking to discover herself, hike 2,000 miles and answer questions about societal expectations?

Let me answer this with a truncated version of a much longer story:  In 2009, a young woman and her boyfriend of three years were in the process of planning a future together.  On one of their many hiking trips into New Hampshire they decided to attempt a rough and tough trail on their way to the summit of Mt. Moosilauke.  As a matter of fact, all of the trails warned of the danger that could be ahead.  While on this trip the woman’s boyfriend shared his desire to one day hike the Appalachian Trail.  Intrigued by this concept, the woman fell in love with the idea herself and they discussed the time when they would embark on this journey together.  But, after a few roller coaster years, the couple parted ways.  However, this idea of the Appalachian Trail and hiking stuck with the woman.  Since the man was the only one to ever hike with her she started going on trips solo and soon found the only times she felt at peace was when she was on a mountain top, above tree line, looking at the immense, wild world below.  Hours were spent above treeline, walking, thinking, watching.  Alpine zone had become her home, her sanctuary.  It was in the alpine zone that she decided to change her path and take on the challenge of the Appalachian Trail.

So folks, in 2012, when I hit the alpine zone on top of Mt. Moosilauke, I will be home, things will have come full circle and therein lies the importance and personal significance of why Alpine Zone.

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