Monday, April 23, 2012

Graybeard Mountain

Graybeard Mountain – Montreat – 2/25/12 – Felt Like 8 Miles

Each year in late February my church, Avondale Presbyterian, offers a women’s retreat in Montreat, NC, the small community next to Black Mountain whose most famous citizen is Billy Graham.  We take over William Black Lodge, share meals, laughs, a guest speaker for the weekend, maybe some games, and experience a renewing of relationships and an injection of faith into the soul.  On Saturday afternoons some of the women go into Black Mountain for lunch and shopping, and some go hiking up to Lookout Mountain, a lovely scenic spot that isn’t too far in distance but takes some work to get to.  I’ve been to Lookout a few times so I like to go off exploring the other trails around Montreat.

This year I advertised a strenuous hike, and perhaps I didn’t sell it well because I only got one taker, our associate pastor, Jane.  In years past Jane had done a lot of hiking and backpacking, but work duties and life have not allowed room for such things in recent years.  So…what’s it like to spend the afternoon with your pastor?  A gift.

We scavenged food from the snack table and walked down Assembly Drive (aka Graybeard Trail), talking 90 miles an hour, and walked past the trailhead sign.  We ended up in someone’s driveway and turned around.  Story of my life – lost before I start.  In my defense, the roads at Montreat are small and winding, kinda like trails…

Near the trailhead we crossed Flat Creek on a very impressive bridge.  There was a definite chill in the air but a very clear blue sky.  Hats and gloves all day today and keep moving!

Very early in the hike we met a guy wearing a kilt, a bit unusual.  He was a member of the local trail club and his first question was, “Do you have a current map?”  Well, let’s see.  I pulled out my one-page map and indeed it was not the newest edition.  Kind sir produced a new map from somewhere in his pack (not his kilt, I was watching closely) and showed us that the trail had been rerouted with gentle switchbacks.  Hmmm…how much mileage does that add?    Mr. Kilt did not say.  But who cares?  We’re hiking on a spectacular winter day.

I was delighted to find that Jane is a good person to hike with.  She has an extensive knowledge of plants, identifying emerging foliage, and appreciated stopping to ponder the little things near the ground and overhead.  We were both ready for some nature time and didn’t solve any big theological questions…or did we?  More and more I think that just leaving the questions behind and getting outside in God’s world really is the answer.

The trail was in great shape, as are all the Montreat area trails that I have hiked on (thanks to Mr. Kilt and his trail maintainer friends).  There are sufficient blazes and few obstacles.  We rock hopped across the creek several times and had a good workout on the steep sections and switchbacks. 

We crossed an enormous boulder field and speculated on what it would have been like the day those big rocks tumbled to their resting places.  Huge trees were growing bravely out of narrow cracks.  This little fellow will split the rock someday. 

At Walker’s Knob Shelter we took a snack break.   Looks pretty cozy for a windy or rainy night.

Jane I hiked for several years (hours) on the supposedly 3.5-mile trail toward the summit of Graybeard Mountain, but we finally had to call it quits because of the lateness of the hour.  The compulsive completer in me was very conflicted, but there was no way to tell how far away the summit was.  It could have been 100 yards or another half-mile and we had run out of time.  Didn’t want to miss dinner, after all!  Here we are to prove that we got this far. 

 Some of the awesome views along Graybeard Trail

On the return trip we investigated this quirky tree, a hollow middle that we could see through but lots of “outside”.  Is that a metaphor for a church retreat topic or what?

Icicles dripping along the trail – I told you it was cold

Just a few short steps from one of the switchback turns is Graybeard Falls, trickling today

The walk down was quicker, of course, and we made it back to the William Black Lodge in time for a quick shower and a hot meal.  But, come on, line dancing after dinner?  Well, if you insist...

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.  ~George Washington Carver

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.  ~Martin Luther

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