Today I had the honor and privilege to do a mountain hike of Crowder’s Mountain NC with my seventeen year old daughter, my girlfriend for her 45th birthday and 3 additional ladies that I met for the first time this morning. It had been 22 years since the last time I hiked and I was 25 and full of vibrant energy. This time we had to drive almost an hour, wake up at 5:30 a.m. to be on time and I’m pulling a 17-year-old who would prefer to spend her Saturday morning in the bed.
When we arrived we inquired with some of the “regulars” the best of the 6 trail options to see the PINNACLE view. Our very friendly mountain guide “Wes” struggled to determine what would be the BEST experience for us based on his knowledge of the trails and his understanding of our skill set, or the lack there of. He was very intentional as he even sought the advise of his 9-year-old daughter who regularly hiked with him. Her input was simple and with child like innocence. “I don’t know dad they just need to get to the top”! In less than 10 seconds, out of the mouth of a babe, she spoke wisdom without even knowing it. Ultimately he decided on a 1.79 mile trail through gravel up the mountain and a 131 step return down, which would be much shorter but steeper terrain. We took his expert advise and the encouragement of his daughter and sought out.
I hadn’t been on my regular workout regime of walking or going to the gym for cardio and weights in over two weeks. A sting of Acute Bronchitis several weeks ago threw me off schedule. So as we begin the hike we were completely covered from head to toe including tube socks to cover yoga pants that didn’t extend to the ankle. Why? Because two of the ladies in our group had watched the news. I don’t, so I was shocked to learn that the mountain trail had reports of an aggressive stream of lime disease. I thought they were regular hikers and figured surely they know what they’re talking about. We ran into a fourth friend of the birthday girl who frequents the mountain and was uncovered and running freely. She only rolled her eyes at the inquiries of lime disease. It was clear to me that she was moving way too fast to get caught by any ailments. It didn’t take long before the sweat beads were too much and my Liz Golf windbreaker was wrapped around my waist. My drawstring bag with two bottled waters, kleenex, a few protein bars and a cell phone soon begin to make my shoulders feel like I was carrying a 2-year-old on them. At one point we reached a clearing in the woods and could see the side of Pinnacle point. My daughter stopped to take a picture and asked “Is that where we are going?” More in a manner of pleading rather than excitement. The inclines steeped and increased with each curve up and around the mountain. I would get overwhelmed to look up and straight ahead because my view always required me to physically lift my head and tilt it back, after-all we were literally climbing a mountain. My breathing was heavy and I had to use those techniques similar to delivery as if I were giving birth a fifth time. This particular route had no benches or rocks with which you could take a breath. Only trees were accessible to lean on or another person if they allowed you too. I made frequent stops for no more than 5-6 seconds before moving on. I finally realized that the added heat from the jacket around my waist and those tube socks were causing more harm than good. As we hiked further and higher, hikers coming down would cheerfully chime “Good Morning, you’re almost there“, “REALLY?” was my only thought but I smiled through it and thanked them.
Finally we arrive around the power line towers and walked through a very steep skinny trail to a clearing with a view, several rocks but we were convinced that although we were able to take a few pictures, too many trees obstructed the full visual so we couldn’t have arrived at the Pinnacle. After gaining direction from others approaching our little spot we realized we were right at the location we just needed to climb back downward a few feet and vow-la! There it was, the most magnificent view I had seen in a very long time. Peaceful, serene, mesmerizing. People were scattered about but not crowded. I immediately noticed a young lady journal-ling, a family with small children and several groups of women. Everyone was talking but there was no noise. Hawks glided the sky, I expect hoping one of us would lose our balance and fall, but it was beautiful just the same. We took lots of pictures, made Facebook Live Videos and just enjoyed the moment. As much as I would have loved to have spent an additional 40 minutes or so, simply enjoying God’s beauty we began our return to the parking lot.
We descended down the trail with the 131 steps. It was steep and we passed many who were discouraged and unsure if the discomfort they were feeling would be worth the climb. As others had said to us on our way up, “You’re almost there, you can do it!” and we traveled downward faster and breathed easier. It was definitely about a third of the route that it took for us to go up (at least it felt that way) but we were surprised to see the benches and rocks available on this side of the mountain for those who needed to rest. My first thought was “Why are the benches on the side of less resistents on a route that is half the one we took?”
I took several great lessons from this hike that apply to my personal journey and I’d love to share them with you.
1- Even when you ask someone to help you with your dream or desire, they can only give you advise based on their own perspective but never based on your ability or drive to achieve it. (Wes our hiking guide)
2- All that matters is that you know where you want to go the direction isn’t the decision, the choice to make it to the top should be your focus. (9-year-old girl’s wisdom)
3- All the right information doesn’t necessarily apply when you actively get engaged in your journey. I had to come out those extra layers in order to breathe better and finish my hike. (Lime disease or any element of fear is no more than extra weight, get rid of it).
4- When you find yourself breathing heavy, unable to keep your head up or over analyzing the SIZE of the issue rather than the outcome, simply stop and catch your breathe, gain your balance lean up against a tree if necessary but keep going.
5- If you get to what “appears” to be your destination and it doesn’t feel or look like the Pinnacle, it probably isn’t. Obstructions shouldn’t be in the way of your view if you’ve achieved the goal. (Spot at the power tower)
6- It may seem that you have to deviate from the climb a bit before reaching the Pinnacle but that’s okay it typically only a short distance before you realize it IS YOUR PINNACLE! (trail downward from the power tower)
7- When you reach your PINNACLE you will feel accomplished, blessed and surrounded by like-minded people. They have traveled the same road with different experiences but the same outcome. The noise is finally silenced and the view is impeccable. (At the TOP)
8-Working your way back into the world will allow you to meet some that may have taken a different path with the same goal in mind. Encourage them to keep going even though it may look like they didn’t have to work as hard as you, their perspective is valuable to them. (meeting people on the way down).
9- Those benches that are on the separate path, now consumed with people taking their breath. Remember that sometimes the climb is easier and once you reach your Pinnacle if you so choose, rest then becomes an option. Just don’t sit too long! (Benches on the descending trail).
10- Be grateful for the people who are willing to journey with you. I had only just met my new girlfriend several months prior to this birthday hike. But she and I clicked, we were like-minded and had similar aspirations. Her additional 2 girlfriends were a joy and encouragement that I would have never perceived to have needed prior to meeting them. My seventeen year old daughter, hung behind when I had to stop to make sure I was okay. We experienced the view together! God will assign those in your life that you need to get to your PINNACLE. Value those relationships.
Isaiah 40:31 (New Living Translation)
“But those that trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”