Back in late October, we took a hike that, while only two miles and small compared to the hikes we used to take, was big in its significance to us. Since Tom injured his knee a year ago, he’d been unable to hike, and we both keenly missed our usual treks to favorite trails up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and elsewhere last summer. And since Benjamin broke his back the previous summer, he’s been reluctant to subject his still vulnerable spine to the rigors of a mountain hike.
But Tom’s knee has been slowly healing, as has Benjamin’s back, so the late October weather was a perfect time to give our long-unused hiking muscles a little workout. I researched many trails before finding one that was challenging enough to test our mettle, but easy enough to be free of undue pain. I found the perfect hike on Bearwallow Mountain, a privately owned mountain south of here, part of which has been placed in a conservation easement so that folks like us are free to share the beautiful views from the grassy pasture at the top with the lucky cows who graze there. The summit of Bearwallow is 4,232 feet above sea level, so the elevation gain is considerable. But the new trail, built by volunteers from the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and other groups, is so skillfully built (with switchbacks and gorgeous rock features) that we climbed with ease. Thank you, volunteers–we are so grateful for your work!
Here’s a wood duck we encountered on the trail.
To our delight, the asters were still blooming and the honeybees still buzzing
Though it was late in the season, there was still color sweeping across the top of Bearwallow.
I loved how these trees, bowed but not broken by the wind, almost seemed to be growing from the rocks.
Some hikers online warned of possible rogue cows on Bearwallow, but all the bovines seemed peaceful to us, if quite curious.
Because of all the communication towers on top of Bearwallow, as well as a former fire tower, there is a gracefully winding road to the top, which we traveled for our journey down. I felt sad when our hike ended, as it was the first time in a very long time that I’d been able to, at least temporarily, shake off the sense of constant disquietude that has dogged me for a long time now. I was worried at the start of the hike about Tom’s knee and Benjamin’s back, as well as anxiety about other troubles that seems to gnaw at my gut almost constantly. But somehow, watching Tom and Benjamin ahead of me climb the trail with strong and sure steps, helped to ease that gnawing for a while and I felt at peace. And the beauty of the trees and mountains and rocks and sky as far as the eye can see at the top, along with the placidity of the curious cows, filled me that day with a joy and serenity that I had not felt for a long time. Even now, I feel a sense of comfort and well-being, looking at these pictures and remembering how I felt that day when I laid down my burdens for a while.
I guess we need to take another hike…soon. :-)