Seeing God in Everything…and Everyone


(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.


Black Balsam blog

Bee on Filmy Angelica blog

(Bee on Filmy Angelica)

Bud of Filmy Angelica blog

(The really cool bud of the Filmy Angelica)

Filmy Angelica opening blog

Black Balsam trail blog

ferns blog

Swallowtail at Black Balsam blog

BlackBalsam blog

fireweed blog

(This one stumped me.  Fireweed, maybe?)



19 Responses to “Seeing God in Everything…and Everyone”

  1. Betsy from Tennessee Says:

    Hi Beth, I’m SO jealous!!!! As you know, we love the Blue Ridge Parkway and the NC area of the mountains. Looks like a gorgeous hike–and you got some GREAT pictures. I’m like you—I don’t want to go to ‘touristy’ places —and that’s why we stay away from the Smokies near here in the Summer. TOO many people. I love to come upon a gorgeous waterfall WAY back in the mountains —-and be there alone, Just me, George and God!!!!! That’s the ultimate!!!!

    Have fun this month… Can’t wait to hear about more of your month-long hikes and birthday celebrations.

  2. Sharon Says:

    You take excellent photos!! I’m around this neck of the woods, too – and your photography skills definitely do justice to our area.
    I’ve enjoyed visiting your site.
    Plus I’m so jealous of the cake. 🙂

  3. Judy Says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful hike with your family and your photos are awesome. I think having cake every weekend would be just the ultimate because it is my favorite thing to eat and make! I like any excuse to have cake. I can just imagine the beautiful views you experienced on your hike.

  4. Sharon Says:

    I wish I could silence my inner curmudgeon! Kudos to you! I would have enjoyed the scenery, however, just as much as you did, even though one of you would have to hike in a tad with me over your shoulder and then just toss me down somewhere. Oh! And speaking of cake! Our wonderful neighbor weed whacked about 100 maple tree seedlings for us and so I made her an Aunt Edna’s Chocolate Cake. Except she doesn’t know this. And it’s already gone. Isn’t that shameful?

  5. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    I see Sharon also likes the sentence I picked out: “I was able to silence my inner curmudgeon.” I especially enjoyed your photo of the ferns in all their greenery. Oh, and the “really cool bud of the Filmy Angelica,” which is amazingly intricate. I always enjoy your photos. Keep up the good work, my friend.

  6. Jayne Says:

    What a great way to celebrate all the birthdays, Beth! :c) Like you, I’d prefer to be a contemplative hiker too. Glad it turned out well just the same.

  7. june Says:

    I too hope for solitude on these sorts of outings…more often than not though, that hope is dashed. Then, like you, I try to make the best of it and feel happy that so many people want to be out there. Glad you had a great time…and great pictures… while there!

  8. colleen Says:

    Wow. You do know how to worship! The photos are stunning and familiar to me.

  9. Ariel Says:

    Lovely photos and a lovely hike! Thank you again for a wonderful birthday and an excellent birthday cake. I’m sorry I had to leave so early. I’m homesick for y’all and the mountains.

  10. NCMountainwoman Says:

    We’ve past Balsam Grove so many times and it never occurred to us to stop and hike it. Thanks for the great photographs. That will definitely go on our list (after the tourists leave). I’m very much like you in that I wonder why they let all those people on MY trails.

  11. eemilla Says:

    Black Balsam and Sam’s Knob are two of my favorite parkway hikes. We took the dog and his girlfriend to Black Balsam for a sunrise hike, and it was absolutely glorious. Watching the sunrise over the mountains almost makes we want to get up early more often! Another bonus about a sunrise hike is that you will exponentially increase your chances of a contemplative hike. Sam’s Knob is great with a dog because before the ascent you walk through a meadow, and every dog I’ve ever take there runs and leaps through the grass like a gazelle.

    As to your prayer, I actually laughed out loud when I read the part about people talking too loud on their cell phones and surly children. The photos are great; I guess that explains why are always bringing up the rear. The angelica bud is neat; it reminds me of a broccoli crown.

  12. Martha Says:

    Nothing like spending time with the family. Another wonderful post with beautiful pictures. I share your need for solitude and try to find moments like that now and again. Oh, and happy birthday to all!

  13. CountryDew Says:

    Great photos. Love the butterfly.

  14. Jeff Says:

    An interesting commentary on solitude – I should go read Walden, one of my very favorite books, again. What do we seek solitude for? Such a lovely picture of the unfolding bud of the filmy angelica!

  15. Benjamin Says:

    Oh…so junket means a pleasant outing…thanks for that peculiarly appealing word. And by the way, your photos are gorgeous…they portray God’s beauty, admittedly in the worn stages of summer, but God’s beauty nonetheless. Good identifying the flowers, too. There is some little pinkish-green flower I need to look up, one you didn’t mention here.

  16. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Lovely writing, lovely photos. Lovely spirit, curmudgeon aside 🙂

    I’ve never acutally hiked those trails before. We definitely need to try it. Maybe we’re due for a junket…

  17. Clara Melvin Says:

    Oh what fun….birthdays, cakes and hikes. I’m just a little jealous. But I’m glad that you have enjoyed the month of August. No better time!

  18. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Not only are your pictures beautiful as always, but I am so impressed at how you can identify everything. You’ve got the plants and Benjamin’s got the birds.

    Being out in nature also makes me feel closer to God.


  19. Darla Says:

    Your last few heart-tugging posts left me wanting to know more about you and your family, so I have been reading some of your older posts. Lovely and honest, filled with compassion and humor. I particularly liked your prayer in this one so had to comment. 🙂 Much love to you, Benjamin, and the rest of your family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: