I have been hiking now for almost two years and, although I am a complete rookie at anything that has to do with the outdoors, the love and passion that was deposited in my soul from the first moment my foot hit the trail is unquenchable. The beauty of creation – the smell of moss and dirt, the colors of the seasons, the melody of the trickling water, the wonder of a waterfall, the challenge of a rock wall that is screaming to be climbed – geez I get excited just thinking about it all! Oh and the peace that is imbedded in my deepest being with each step – it would be safe to just say that I absolutely love everything about it! A month or so ago I had the opportunity to go on my first ‘group’ hike. Up until this point my time on the trail had consisted of either going with a friend who had introduced me to the outdoors, venturing on some solo hikes to places I was 99% confident that I wouldn’t get lost (my directional skills suck raw eggs!) and a few adventures with my oldest son who caters to my passion for one on one time with him. On this day however, I was privileged to join a group of men who were loaded with trail knowledge, incredibly skilled with the camera, packed with personality, fully equipped with trail savvy and all possessed what I call a ‘hiker’s heart.” From the moment we all stepped out of the car I knew that I was amongst kindred souls and that the day would nothing short of incredible.
Our destination for the day would be Gentry’s Creek Falls in Laurel Bloomery Tennessee. I had visited this set of falls once in the winter months when the trail was dusted with snow and ice bats were everywhere to be found along the way. Today, it didn’t take too many steps to see that Spring had sprung! The landscape was painted with color from various sorts of wildflowers that only their Creator could dress so superbly! Trilliums donned in the deep shades of scarlet, Dutchman’s Breeches dangling in the gentle breeze, Trout lilies and Bellworts bursting up like little rays of sunshine, Chick weed painted in the purest shades of white, Bluettes and violets coloring the path. One couldn’t help but stop and admire the exquisite scenery and that’s exactly what we did. What normally, at a steady pace, would take a little over an hour to hike to the waterfalls (2.5 miles) became a journey of taking the time to capture as much of the treasures of the trail that we possibly could. Moments of laying before a flower, admiring her in all her grandeur, snapping shot after shot to ensure the finest outcome. Kneeling before mounds of moss observing its 50 shades of green, smelling the earthy aroma (yes, I admit it! I like to smell moss!) running my fingers over the different textures. Standing beside the creeks edge, watching the cascades roll over the rocks, breathing in the melody while it penetrates the soul, sighing as the breeze dances softly across my skin. Oh if only time could have halted and allowed an eternity to savor every inch of this magical place! I took as much or more pleasure in watching my trail mates as they indulged themselves in every detail possible as I did in my own personal observations. I had to chuckle several times when I would look back and see them laying spread out on the ground, meticulously examining the specimen before them.
Eventually, after a few hours, we arrived at the destination. Lay aside the beauty along the trail to the fall, the challenge of the 14 stream crossings – which by the way I love even when the water level is high and I get my feet soaked! – the awesome rocks and boulders you can climb all over – and the falls alone are a magnificent sight to behold. On this particular day the water level was abundant enough that there were two cascades flowing on the lower portion of the falls (the winter hike was a low level day with only the main cascade flowing so this was a treat to have two!). With a little effort, on the left side of the fall you can climb a steep goat trail up to access the upper portion of the falls. With careful footing you can cross the creek a final time to the right side and access one of my favorite rock walls to climb to the top of the upper fall. (The persistent ones will go on out to the edge of the upper fall and take the famous ‘boot shots’ while peering down over the fall). The entire scenery offers hours of exploring, photo opportunities, numerous spots to sit back and refresh a weary soul and even a perfect spot for a hillbilly baptism (another blog will suffice explaining this one!).
The hike out went a little quicker than the hike in seeing that some of us had other appointments to attend to for the evening. The carpool back to our homes and vehicles consisted of conversations of the wonders of the day (and a little catnap in the backseat knowing I was babysitting a 20 month old later that evening and I better rest while I could!) and it wasn’t long until we were all on our separate ways back to our individual lives and agendas. A couple of days passed and while I was drinking my morning coffee and playing over everything I needed to get done for the day, I sighed at how busy life gets sometimes and the hurry we are always in – rush here, rush there, scurrying through our day to get everything done. Most of the time just barely surviving and waiting on that grand moment when we will be swept away to another time and a heavenly place. My mind went back to the trail day and the way we lingered along the way. How no one was in a hurry to get somewhere although we knew a grand place awaited our arrival. The way careful observation was taken as to try not miss one good thing.
On this particular day it was all about the journey. Taking the time to digest each step, admiring every possible piece of beauty our eyes could behold. The appreciation of a creation made just for us. The conversations shared with old friends and new friends. The discovery of things not known before (well mostly by me because these guys know their flowers!). The fellowship of like-minded individuals and companionship of kindred souls. The treasure of connecting with people who have their own separate journeys yet sharing a few priceless moments together along the way. Oh that we would live our everyday life this way! Yes we have a grand destination awaiting on us someday but if that is our only focus, my oh my, what we miss out on along the way! It’s the journey that teaches us, grows us, shapes us and makes us. It’s the journey that possesses the life lessons, the moments, the treasures that money can’t buy. It’s the journey that allow us to meet others – some are kindred souls on the same path and some who are headed in a totally different direction – and glean from them tidbits for our own soul. It’s the journey where moments are appreciated and memories are made. The journey may not always go as planned, there may be a few slip-ups along the way , but taking the time to delight in it is where the true joy is discovered, joy that produces strength to carry us along our way until we reach our destination.
Hiked on Friday April 17, 2015. Our group for the day. Photo credit to Derrick Hamrick (the big guy on the right)
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Anais Nin