I’m still feeling it four days later. A tightness along the back of my legs next to the calf muscle, evidence of all the climbing and descending. On Thursday of last week my family and I loaded up a picnic lunch, water bottles and swim gear for a day at Hanging Rock. My son had earlier dubbed our three day adventure- Mom’s Birthday Nature Tour. With our home as our campsite we took off to parts hither and beyond to be outdoors in God’s amazing creation. Thursday would prove to require the most effort of the three day tour.
Passing over the picturesque yet brief waterfall hikes, we decided on the grand dame of all the hikes available at Hanging Rock. Our trajectory: the top of Moore’s Knob to gain a 360 degree view of the world around us. Mind you, we did forego the 5-mile Moore’s Wall Loop which would have gotten us there, but taken longer. Opting for a one and a half mile jaunt through the campground, we found the start of the 770 steps leading up to the Knob. Straight. Up.
It is pointless, in the midst of such a climb, to label the experience with words like arduous, difficult, excruciating, back-breaking. I prefer to say more present-affirming words such as “my heart-rate is greatly accelerated”, or “I’m perspiring profusely”, or “these water bottles in my backpack seem heavier than when we first began.” (And why it is I’m STILL carrying water bottles for all my adult and near-adult children, I do not know!) But nevertheless, frequent rests were needed to
sip guzzle water and allow my breathing to return to a more even canter.
Our son was the first to reach the top. I could hear him, though I was quite a few paces behind…”Oh. My. God.” An apt expression I would soon understand as I too lifted my eyes to a view that took my breath away.
We lingered long up there. Venturing out onto rocks not too close to the edge. Clambering up the staircase of the tower. Trying to keep our bellies in balance as we slowly gazed around. Attempting to take it all in, the height and the breadth of distance, mountains, towns and farmland; sky, clouds, sunshine and shadow.
Somewhere in all of our oohing, aahing, and picture-taking someone asked if I had any more water for them to drink. We realized we were all just a swallow or two away from being empty and a nagging peckishness pulled us to begin the descent, though each was reluctant to leave such beauty.
Going down a mountain appears to be a much easier endeavor. But I think this is what I’m still feeling in my calves…the jolt and jarring of 770 stone steps DOWN. It is one thing to go on adventures. It is quite another to return from them.
My husband knows of my love for pilgrimages, or at least the image that it invokes in our lives. He commented on the way down how much our hike was like a spiritual pilgrimage. Yes, love, I feel it too. Though my legs were now the consistency of cooked spaghetti, I was strengthened by having gone on a pilgrimage in nature. Not quite the Camino de Santiago, which I dream of walking one day, but every bit as beautiful, heart-rending, body-exerting and soul-filling as a pilgrimage should be.
One day, when I reach the end of the climb of Life, the view will truly and literally be breath-taking. And I will not have to turn around and go back down. There will be no more need for refilled water bottles or food for fuel. Legs will be stronger than ever and somehow I’ll be able to fly off into that vast 360 degree beauty forever. Until then, I’ll count the
steps blessings along the way as a pilgrim here, walking my own Camino.