The view from Max Patch

I took a walk in the woods yesterday, and the day before and the day before and the day before. Invariably the walk included scrumptious views atop Max Patch, named for a horse named Maximilian. It’s a bald, a word in the Southern Highlands for a mountaintop with no trees.

Tuesday’s hike began from a well-hidden path off our road. It merged soon with the Appalachian Trail, the famous 2,100-mile footpath extending from Georgia to Maine. A hard rain had just come through, and I was fortunate to escape it, though certainly became soaked soon enough. About a mile in, I met a couple from Pennsylvania, Marty and Bob and their two dogs, Rudy and Sam. They were not so fortunate with the rain.

I hiked on, and wished them well. If you ever want to remind yourself how small you are in the universe, hike in deep woods, or stand on top of a bald and soak in the 360-degree view. It’s absolutely humbling, as well as a thing of beauty.

Typical of such ventures, I think of things going on back home. Various friends are in tight spots. I say prayers for them. I wonder about the trees surrounding me, and critters underfoot. I try to avoid falling on the slippery roots. I drink lots of water. My heart races on the inclines.

These are not like our baby hills at home. I get soaked in perspiration.

About two miles in, I came to a sign that was confusing. I saw three paths but what appeared to be four choices on the sign. I knew I wanted to stay on the A.T. Not sure which one it was, I took off reticently. I turned back, hoping that Marty and Bob would come along. They did, and I joined them for the final two miles and took turns calling their dogs back from the fern-covered forest.

I learned that Marty had hiked the whole trail in 1997 and they were down this way on vacation, visiting their daughter in nearby Asheville. I learned that their daughter had once stayed in the very same house we’re renting.

You may find, while hiking in the woods, that you’re small; you’re merely visiting those who make the woods their home. But if you pay attention, you might also see that the Universe provides, sending new friends to point the way.


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