Looking for a Perfect Hike
I desperately needed to get away and clear my head, so I decided to give Mt. Yonah a whirl. Nestled just between Cleveland and Helen, Georgia, I thought this quick day trip would be the perfect place to disconnect and reenergize. I had high expectations of tranquility, majestic views, and time alone, getting lost in the woods with my sweet pup Archie.
The parking lot was full, however, my expectations for tranquility still remained high. After all this was labeled a “difficult” hike. Archie bolted out of the car and made a beeline to a couple of ladies eating lunch. They offered him a slice of cheese and he graciously accepted. We headed to the trailhead and began our assent up the mountain.
I tend to hike relatively quickly. I wouldn’t call myself a seasoned speed hiker, but efficient, absolutely. Not on this day! The relentless uphill climb seemed never ending. I constantly had to remind myself to look up and out; I was after all on this hike to bring stillness and peace to my inner being, not to stare at dirt.
The fullness of the parking lot seemed more and more evident the higher I climbed. Large groups, small groups, families, couples, you name it they were all there. At each opening I found myself waiting back for my opportunity to jump in and sit on a cliff alone; to take in the deep reds, oranges, and yellows the fall leaves had to offer. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to explain once again that Archie was a mix of who only knows what, and your guess is as good as mine.
I finally gave up on finding a quiet spot with cascading views of rolling hills and trees with perfect fall leaves far below… my intentions were all shot to hell as I sat down on a rock and waited my turn for a view. Everything felt so commercialized.
I kept thinking about how stereotypical climbing a mountain was to the up and downhill battles of life, how its hard to get to the top, and when you’re at the top its all worth it. But what I began to recognize was that the views at the top weren’t what I was really seeking. As beautiful as the hills and trees were, they were distant. Sitting on a rock waiting my turn to see what was off and far away allowed me to see what was right around me.
Gorgeous fall leaves freshly fallen, and scattered just beneath my feet. This is what I wanted all along, to see the beautiful fall leaves, to be engulfed by their beauty, but I couldn’t see them because I wasn’t looking. It occurred to me that there was no better way to truly see them, than to hold them in my hands. I didn’t only see their boasting color, but I got to feel their veins, examine them their intricate patterns, smell them.
I got up and left my frustration behind. I had gotten just what I came for, only in a different and more perfect way than I pictured for myself. I continued onward, peaked the mountain, and as I headed back down I passed the cliff where I had patiently waited for a view. A fire lit inside me, and I took off running for the trailhead. With Archie nipping my heals, we made every step count.
Trail running is so freeing for me. It is something I enjoy thoroughly, but don’t get to do often. I felt the freedom that I had gone to the mountain seeking. I didn’t expect to find it sprinting down the face of a very steep mountain. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t a “view” ahead, I was able to take in each moment for what it was. We ran passionately to the end. Upon reaching the parking lot a guy asked me how long it had taken me to run to the bottom, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t once looked at my phone. I shrugged “I don’t know.” I’m so happy I didn’t, because it didn’t matter. I was enjoying myself.
With my impending graduation from college I can’t help but relate my experiences. Every step of the way counts. As I find myself awaiting the summit (a job), I feel the same unrest in my soul that I felt on the trail waiting to see the view that everyone had raved about. I find I often feel this way as one season of life rolls into the next. Hiking Mt. Yonah reminded that it’s not all about getting to the top. In fact it was the race to the bottom of the mountain that I felt the most fearless and freed. I am reminded that I have to run boldly and passionately towards every finish line, making every step, every moment, count.