For our final day of vacation, I wanted to take a pretty long hike and meander and relax for a bit. We’d had to rush through the Boone Fork Trail because of the approaching darkness, so I decided to start out first thing Saturday morning on the Tanawha Trail that ended in our campground. Besides, rain was forecast for the afternoon, and I hoped to get back before it started.
Ashok and I set out about 8 AM and ascended to the meadow that we had hiked the Friday. It was here that we’d pick up the trail and head out to unseen wilderness. I had more than a few blackberries on the way out as no other hikers had picked the best ones nearest the trail. The purple and white wildflowers attracted bees and butterflies, and the field was abuzz. At the edge of that meadow, the trail crossed a gravel road. There was a couple looking at a sign, and they asked me where they were. I looked at their map and showed them our location. We had a good laugh at the number of cars that GPS was sending to this particular spot in the middle of nowhere.
Earlier in the week, I had plugged in Mt. Pisgah in my GPS, and it led me on a wild goose chase that took me an 1 1/2 hours to unwind. I ended up on a gravel road surrounded by hillbilly houses flying confederate flags. A large sign warned me that this was a private road, and it was NOT the way to Mt. Pisgah. I surmised that I wasn’t the only one that had been led astray, and I wondered what had happened to the others. As soon as I started hearing banjos, I turned around and got my curly-haired ass out of there. I learned real quick not to follow GPS in the mountains.
After leaving the lost couple, I found the trail marker which led me through a gate into a cattle pasture. A sign warned not to let Ashok run the cows. I learned real early this week not to let her off leash. She caught sight of a deer, and, if I had not had her leashed, I know her and that deer would have ended up on the other side of North Carolina. She was chomping at the bit.
About midway through the pasture, I saw this beautiful little stand of trees. It reminded me of a place where Captain Call and Gus might camp for the night, and I sat on a big boulder in the shade and read for awhile. It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget. Ashok was laying peacefully at my feet, the sun was shining, and a soft breeze was blowing. It was perfect. I even read aloud to her for a bit. After about 30 minutes, I packed up and spotted an apple tree nearby. We each chomped on an apple fresh-picked from the tree before making our way. I took advantage of what was in front of me. And this time it was apples.
The trail then led through a beautiful, peaceful forest. As we turned a corner, a couple of wild turkeys and about 5 baby turkeys took off running for cover. The path lead to another meadow and then we got stopped by some very large cows that were blocking the path. Ashok barked at them, and I told them to move. I was a little worried about what to do if one of them charged me. I don’t know anything about cows, and wouldn’t that be a great ending to my story to be killed by a maniac cow? The just rambled on down the trail and went into the woods to let us pass.
The last part of the trail was a rhododendron thicket with several little creekbeds running through it. Ashok had several drinks of water, and I stopped to eat a Nutella sandwich. The section of the trail we were hiking ended at Cold Prong Pond which was a big disappointment. There was no pond, and the trail was not maintained very well. It got so brushy that we couldn’t pass, so we just turned around and made our way back.
We got back to the campsite about 30 minutes before the rains started. I headed into Boone to take my first shower in 3 days and got a burger as the rains continued to fall. It rained into the night. I spent my last night sitting in the tent finishing “Wild.” I had started the book about Chery Strayed’s journey on the Pacific Coast Trail on Sunday. I’d rather read at night when camping than sit out by a campfire, so every night after I’d hiked during the day, I’d read about Cheryl’s hike. Each day when I hiked, I’d think about her experience and compare my thoughts and experiences with hers. It was cool that my adventure was ending just as I was finishing reading about hers. As I sat in the tent with rain pouring down, she was hiking across Oregon with the rain pouring down on her.
All week I felt like I had a kindred spirit in Cheryl. Her hiking inspired me to get out and enjoy the day and the moment – one footstep after another. I love the momentum of hiking. There’s a path in front of me, and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting its lead. It’s meditative, and it’s soothing. I move forward, and the scenery slowly changes. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel very spiritually connected. My heart cracks wide open, and I am filled with gratitude and the knowing that God cares for me as much as He did for this beautiful creation.
Cheryl talks about ‘trail magic’, and I certainly felt like I experienced it on my hikes this week. On the Tanawha Trail, I discovered a feather in the middle of the trail. The trail marker for this trail is a white feather. I put it in my pack as a remembrance. Little surprises like the apple tree and the sweet blackberries and the turkeys made me smile all week long. The hiking made me happy. I’m on my way home now, and it’s back to work tomorrow. But, I feel like my soul is refreshed. I met some new friends, reconnected with some old friends and explored a lot of new territory. I told one of my friends that I was sad that my adventure was over. He urged me to start a new one tomorrow. Okay… I think I will. Just follow the trail … one footstep after another.