“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.