(It seems I’m always bringing up the rear in our hikes. That’s Ariel, Benjamin, and Tom well ahead of me.)
It’s August and that means one thing in the Blue Ridge Blue Collar household—–roadtrips! August is when both our children are usually home from college for a visit, so we reserve the weekends for adventures, mostly of the hiking variety. And since both of our children are generally at college in the thick of exams for their birthdays (which occur in April and May), we celebrate them in August. And since Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s birthday actually IS in August, I end up baking a cake every weekend, and August ends up being one long, wonderful cake-eating binge. So it’s a good thing that we all love to hike so we can rationalize all that cake- eating.
It’s always been a tradition in our family that we get the roadtrip of our choice(within reason and budget) on our birthday weekend. Since Ariel’s birthday is earliest, she got to choose the first junket (I’ve always wanted to use that word!). We all love the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it’s no surprise that our roadtrips often involve the Parkway. This year, Ariel chose to go to Black Balsam Knob, which is just off the Parkway at Milepost 420.2. For directions and some amazing autumn pictures (much better than mine), go here.
The little road that you turn on (off the Parkway) is deceptive. The pavement is cracked and overgrown, and it’s easy to believe that no one has traveled the road for a very long time and that you’re going to have Black Balsam Knob all to yourself. Here’s where I should confess that I’m a slightly anti-social hiker, or as I prefer to call myself, a contemplative hiker. Oh sure, I enjoy brief chats with folks we meet on the trails and I love talking to my favorite hiking companions, but I’m really there to commune mainly with the One who makes all that beauty possible—God. And my favorite hikes have always been the ones where we’ve had the place mostly to ourselves, such as our hikes last year at Craggy Gardens, which you can read about here, here, and here.
Anyhow. As we traveled up the desolate road, my pulse quickened with excitement, thinking of all that lovely solitude. But I was quickly disabused of that silly notion as we rounded a bend and came upon upwards of twenty-five cars lining both sides of the road. Good Lord. So much for my momentary fantasy of a serene and undisturbed hike.
But no matter. I said a little prayer before we started our hike—-a variation of the same prayer I pray every single morning:
God, please help me to see You everywhere. Not only in the mountains and flowers and sky and rocks, but in every soul I encounter on this hike. Even if, in the midst of all this beauty, they’re talking loudly on their cell phones or their surly children are whining about being bored. Help me to remember that they, too, are Your beloved children. Amen.
And we did encounter a good number of folks. And some of them were very loud. But I was able to silence my inner curmudgeon, and we had a peaceful and lovely time. And I was even able to commune with the One Who made this all possible and to give Him my most fervent thanks for the blue layered mountains that seemed to stretch to infinity and for the clouds that tumbled across the sky and for all the wildflowers growing in a tangle on the bald. And, while I can’t say I thanked Him for all the many people there, at least I didn’t curse their presence.
(Bee on Filmy Angelica)
(The really cool bud of the Filmy Angelica)
(This one stumped me. Fireweed, maybe?)