When I was preparing for my knee surgery, I tried to walk all my favorite trails because I knew it would be several months before I would be able to do it again. Many of those walks were with my hiking buddy from Gwinnett, Jessica. After my surgery she was the one who drove me around in the mountains, and then managed to get me into a creek, where I promptly fell asleep in my chair. She understands that I am drawn to the woods, because she is as well. Sometimes we talk the whole way, sometimes we are silent. Either way, we love being outside and taking on challenges together. She jokes with me and says…don’t hang with a cancer survivor, because when they hear the word life…they drag you through the woods and don’t ever stop. No excuses. However, I remember it was she who dragged me up Blood Mountain…so I don’t listen to her. I just keep walking. 😉
It is only fitting that my first post-surgery attempt at Raven’s Cliffs trail was with Jess. This morning she brought along her husband Keith, and the three of us headed out. The day was overcast, but I had checked the weather…it was supposed to be sunny before getting colder by the evening. When it started to sprinkle in the parking lot I wasn’t worried. I figured it would burn off, and be a crisp, beautiful fall day. We were dressed in cotton, except for Boy Scout Keith who had a waterproof windbreaker, gloves, and a hat. My goal was to make it to the cairn rock and leave my mark. I’m not sure how far in that rock is, but I figured it would give my leg a good workout, because there are a couple of boulder outcroppings that require some creative climbing to get around.
As we headed up the trail, the rain increased. However, this walk keeps the blood pumping, so we were plenty warm. Never mind, that before too far we were soaked through to the skin. The Korean Alpine Club members seemed surprised that we were hiking in as they were happily jogging out. I am not making it up. (Who knew the Korean Alpine Club existed, much less that it had so many members?) There was one guy with a Korean Red Cross symbol on his jacket; I thought if I fell on the slippery, wet leaves into the deepening mud, we may have to find him to get me out. It ended up that I didn’t need him, because Keith was blazing the trail for me, pointing out the safest path to avoid the puddles and roots. Jessica was behind, holding me up by my belt loops on occasion so I would not lose my balance while climbing over boulders. We were quite a team, hiking the lowlands beside a river that was filling up quickly. My hair looked as though I was fresh out of the shower, and it dripped on my already soaked warm-up jacket. Jessica was as soaked as I was in her sweatshirt, while Keith, the well prepared Boy Scout, was dry and comfy.
Still, even though I was soaking wet, the forest was beautiful. The leaves, now mostly on the ground, made a blanket of many colors…like a quilt. Those still in the trees brought texture and dimension to the woods making it seem more alive than usual. You know how I love the sound of the rain right? Well, the hiss of the drops sliding down the leaves was musical and magical. Music to my ears. The rushing river was racing by, calling out for us to keep moving, and we did. Up and down rocks and over logs, through the mud and along the leaf covered trail we walked. We were in no hurry, just trying to make it to the goal. We approached the cairn rock, which already had evidence of hikers stacked on its surface. I built my monument to perseverance and tenacity. Topping off my stack of stones with a resounding never -give- up rock. It is when I make a goal, that you see the cancer survivor rise up to the surface. Choosing life. Living fully.
Once complete, we turned for home. Finding a love note from God along the way…a heart shaped hole in a tree that I had never noticed before. A perfect statement for the day. Then, we went back to the house, where there are clothes dryers, hair dryers and dry clothes, which brought smiles to our faces. Next time I will try to go further, but for today, it is enough. I can walk. I am alive. I am enough.