Don’t dig a new hole when trying to fill one in your spirit
Buzz Trexler | (email@example.com)
There’s something about not finishing what one starts that leaves a hole in your spirit.
That was the case when I failed to complete the three-day hike from Hughes Gap to Apple House Shelter along the Appalachian Trail on Memorial Day weekend 2010.
It didn’t even help when we picked up my son, David, and the rest of the hikers on Labor Day Monday and I heard the stories about how treacherous the rain-drenched rocky trail had become leading down to Apple House Shelter, the last leg of the hike.
“Dad, it’s a good thing you got off the trail,” David said, recounting how slippery the rocks were and bringing up the possibility that my unstable feet would give way.
I may have been smart to exit the trail on the second day, but it wasn’t intelligence that led me to bug out early. In my mind, it was an irrational fear that I would somehow get crippled up along the way -- and I felt a void.
I couldn’t get the image of my hiking buddies climbing Round Bald without me out of my mind.
Truth be told, the stories of being rain-drenched and discovering an Overmountain Shelter mouse had gotten into David’s trail mix (“I thought Cole had eaten it!” he said) only added to a sense of loss.
I’d missed the adventure.
Even as we drove back to Knoxville, I couldn’t wait to get back on a trail again. I felt like that pilot from “Top Gun” who had to bail out of a fighter jet and his superiors knew he had to get back into the cockpit before he lost his nerve.
After about a week or so, my wife, Donna, asked me, “What do you want to do for Father’s Day?”
“I want to do a family hike,” I said, promising to find an easy trail.
I picked up my Great Smoky Mountains trail book, looked for some nearby trails, and decided on Abrams Falls Trail. It was billed as a “fairly easy 5-mile trek (round-trip) that is ideal for the beginner or a family.”
When Father’s Day arrived, my first mistake was thinking we could leave Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa after Sunday morning worship and make it to the Abrams Falls trailhead in a reasonable amount of time – an error I realized after creeping along on Cades Cove Loop Road for well more than a hour with the trailhead nowhere in sight.
“Great,” I groused. “We’re behind on time before we even hit the trail, and Elizabeth (my daughter) has to be at work no later than about 5 p.m.”
Not a good start.
Next came the realization that a rocky trail doesn’t make for a pleasant experience for first-time hikers. As a result, my credibility within the family has diminished somewhat and no one believes me when I cite a trail’s difficulty level as being “easy” or “moderate.”
As for me, the benchmark was now a particular 2,100-foot climb, and I trucked on along with little reluctance: “Well, it’s not as tough as Hughes Gap.”
No one seemed impressed.
the end of the day, I was just thankful just to be able to complete a hike and began to look forward
to Labor Day weekend when we would once again join up with the Kentucky brethren. This time we
would hike from Dennis Cove Road to Wilbur Dam Road, adding a portion of the old Appalachian Trail
that includes Coon Den Falls.
Looking back, it was on that hike that I truly began to
experience life lessons along the trail.