In the past couple of years, my daughter (who typically does not choose to be outdoors) has been encouraging us to go hiking on the weekends. Be still my heart! When she was a baby, we used to put her in the Kelty backpack and take her all around Western NC to explore trails and mountains.
As she grew into her tween and teen years, however, going hiking with Mom didn’t seem as fun or cool until last summer when her annual week at summer camp inspired something in her (Thank you, Camp Tekoa!). Now 1-2 times per month, we journey out with the dogs and enjoy an afternoon of rock-hopping, trail-walking and nature-loving goodness.
I’ve started her out on some of the more commonly known hikes around here–Craggy, Pisgah, and Graveyard Fields. It is my personal goal to familiarize her with places I’ve enjoyed since childhood. I’m also trying to teach her a bit about the flora and fauna native to our area–a tribute to my parents who always brought along a plant book when we we made such journeys together. I am determined that my child will learn the difference between the rhododendron and laurel before I’m too old to hike any longer.
This past weekend, we decided on a whim to make a trip south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Limited on time but filled with longing, we just needed to get outside up into the peace of the mountains. There is something to be said about Nature and her ability to ease the spirit.
As we wound our way up the Parkway, sunlight gave way to scattered precipitation. I asked my daughter to pull over, and we spent some quiet time together observing the heavy clouds roll across the mountain landscape. As she took the opportunity to photograph the scene, I stood back and watched her. Perhaps, in her own intentional way, she too was developing a love for our Creator’s gifts.
We continued on up the road past Graveyard Fields to a trail that leads to Devil’s Courthouse. It offers breathtaking views after a mile hike straight up the mountainside. While exiting the car, we both joked that our hike would be in vain–we were in the midst of settling clouds, and there would be no view for us up top.
Determined to get our hike in, however, we began up the path with our two dogs in tow. Because of the altitude, we now walked among evergreen trees, ferns, and moss. Along with the cloud cover, this magical environment made it feel as if someone had written us into a fairy tale.
Upon reaching the summit, we looked out into an infinite landscape of white. There was not much to see by way of a view, and I wondered if my daughter would be disappointed in our journey. It is not unlike teens to let one small disappointment shadow a whole event.
But she surprised me. Instead, she explored the rocks, sneaked in a few selfies, and observed her surroundings. And to her credit, she turned and suggested, “We need to do this one again when it’s clear!”
As we made our way down the mountain, the fog became more dense and wrapped its dampness around our shoulders. We lingered to take snapshots of nature until my daughter announced that she felt rain.
Then it came–not just rain, but a torrential downpour. We shrieked and laughed and sprinted down the mountain. Tourists, huddling under trees, giggled as we flew past. Chula Grace and Lulu bounced along behind me on their leashes.
By the time we reached the car, I am not sure who looked more waterlogged, the dogs or us. And then I heard it, my daughter’s belly laugh–a laugh that embodied pure joy. In between catching her breath and drying herself off, she had begun to chuckle about the rain, the run, and our appearance. Even at a time in her life when looks are very important, she didn’t bat an eye when I asked for a selfie of us to mark the occasion. When she willingly agreed, I knew that she too would tuck this hike into her heart.
Driving home, we recounted the journey down the trail and the unexpected surprise of a summer storm. I thought for a bit about our Creator’s sense of humor and perfect timing. It’s not often a middle aged mom and teen daughter get to share such a memorable afternoon.
Sometimes in life, we are afforded opportunities of joy with those that we love. We may just have to look past the unexpected storms and cloud cover to recognize the gifts that await us there.