On the Appalachian trail, there is one string of approximately thirteen miles that is officially deemed “The Rollercoaster.” Aptly named, it is a string of 10 peaks that each rise and fall about 500 ft. What’s best is, there isn’t a single view. Hikers summit peak after peak after peak for more than thirteen miles without any reward.
Jess and I have a habit, whether on or off the trail, of reassigning words to popular songs. On the trail, this practice helped boost morale on several occasions. As we summited the last peak of the infamous “Roller Coaster” we revisited the barhopping days of our college years and sang at the top of our lungs (we were yellsinging):
THIS IS THE HILL THAT NEVER ENDS,
IT WILL GO ON AND ON, MY FRIENDS,
SOME PEOPLE…STARTED HIKING IT NOT KNOWING WHAT IT WAS,
AND THEY’LL CONTINUE HIKING IT FOREVER JUST BECAAAAUUUSSEEEE….
Our inner children zipped up their sleeping bags lightening quick to hide from the man who approached with a giant beer belly and the darkest AT style beard he could muster. Later, we found out that his trail name was, “Possible.” He looked at us with empty eyes and sans sarcasm said, “you girls are having too much fun…I could hear you about a mile away.” Apparently, we had ruined his 900 miles of solitude.
On August 6th (just a few weeks ago) I went on my first hike post Appalachian Trail. The master plan was to hike the Moses H. Cone Memorial park’s fire tower for a sunrise. The night before, Jeanie, my cousin (once removed?), who visits Blowing Rock, NC every summer with her husband and two teenagers, had invited myself and my husband over for dinner. They had just finished hiking the 5.4 mile out-and-back trail a few hours earlier–the family friendly trail is gravel and although it’s not easy, it is not nearly as strenuous as some of the others I have experienced in the high country. My cousin’s daughter, Lydia, expressed that she liked the view, but that she would never hike again. I began to explain my plans for the morning, and I could see a twinkle of interest enter her eyes. She asked timidly if I would take her with me. I chuckled a bit and said genuinely that “yes, I would love to have some company.”
At 5 am I had already driven the 20 minutes to their beautiful mountain home rental, and Lydia, Jeannie and I set off to the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the dark, especially on a cloudy night, the parkway is a whole new experience. If you’ve never battled the fog in Boone, it’s my opinion that you’ve never seen fog before. We crept along to milepost 294 and parked just south of the Cone Manor Estate. The land that is Cone Manor covers 3,516 acres and houses two mountains, 25 miles of carriage trails, a craft center that runs workshops and sells local artist’s work, and many other fantastic amenities. The entire estate is a memorial to Moses H. Cone who was a textile entrepreneur and was known as “The Denim King.” He was ALSO an expert in the apple industry. I love apples…and history.
Even with headlamps and flashlights, the darkness is overwhelming. Lydia, walking in the middle, peered to either side of myself and her mom…”what was that?” she asked nervously. “Are there bears? What was that? I can’t wait for the sun to come up.”
“Lyd…we are fine. We are making way too much noise to see any animals.” We responded…almost in unison.
“I mean, guys, at least the sun will be up on the way back.” She responded.
I wrote in my journal later that morning that “her commentary was interesting. Granted, she is very mature for her age, but her idea of safety and danger is much different than mine. I can’t remember for sure, but I think I felt the same way at her age.”
For me, the walk at night was interesting. The moonlight that comes through the trees creates a thousand silhouettes, each interrupting another. I could feel the cold air travel as a breath through my lungs and it was just…peaceful. These are things that I have never noticed before.
When I started this blog, I thought that I would conquer one new hike a week, but when we reached the top of the tower and took in the 300 degree view, I realized that no hike is the same. Each new person experiences their hike in a different way. The things that I saw and felt the first time I tackled the fire tower are certainly not the same as I felt on this morning. I feel nostalgic about the way a 14 year old experiences her very first sunrise and I am equally envious of how a 50-something wife and mother of two sees the same trail at the same exact time.
Jeanie turned to me as we waited for the sun to rise. We looked over the the fog flooded valleys and she said, “My husband’s mother used to say that when there is fog, an old lady is dragging her dress across the peaks of the mountains.”
Each trail is a million different trails. The hike is more than just something you go and see. Regardless of how aware of it you are, it is a symbol of who you are at that moment. The impossibly sour man, “Possible,” however misguided at that moment, has every right to experience the trail in the way he needs to. After all, he was summiting the first peak of “The Roller Coaster” as we finished the last.
Although I am interested in finding new things, I don’t think that everything needs to be brand new all the time. The comparison between time and age is just as valuable.