Grieving a change in seasons

It started simply enough. Nearly a decade ago, I called up a friend who lives in the north Georgia mountains. “Want to take a hike?” I love to hike, she loves to hike, and off we went.

From them on, once or twice a year, Dora got a phone call. “It’s time.” Michael and I called it “running away from home.”

Here are the routes I remember, all along the famed Appalachian Trail: the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain, the AT’s southern terminus; Neel’s Gap up and over Blood Mountain, and back; Cooper Gap to Woody Gap; Woody to Neel’s; and Neel’s to Tesnatee Gap.

Our “season” is coming to an end, as she’s taking a new job and moving. Of course I’m happy for her, but sad that our hiking reunions will change. (Or maybe we’ll explore new territory.)

Our hikes took us the better part of a day. We’d each bring a day pack with water, sandwich and crackers or chips, and usually Dora brought homemade cookies. Lunch was around the halfway point. On the walk, we talked about everything, and nothing.

We huffed and puffed on the inclines and relished in the down. In our eight or so years, we saw horses along trail roads; turkeys; hawks; wildflowers; and in the spring, evidence of snow.

Thankfully we never had an injury. But one year, after shuttling one car to our ending point, and hiking most of the day, I discovered I’d left my keys back in her car. Oops. After awhile, I remembered that some friends of my parents lived in the area. The husband of the couple came to our rescue.

On our most recent hiking attempt, we didn’t hike, due to inclement weather. Instead, we ate a meal and laughed that we got to face each other rather than talking to one or the other’s back. Then we watched some cyclists loop the wet streets, on their way to the hills that we had to miss.

Another time, my friend.