We had to drive a couple hours before we reached our trailhead. Like many journeys, we had a lovely view—as we started out—of Table Rock and its surrounding ridges outlines against the morning sunlight. The close we drove, though, the less we could see our destination. The other, lower hills became obstacles, blocking our view. By the time we were actually on the trail, we could see a lot of trees, but not much scenery.
The hike took about two hours on the way up, climbing four and a half miles up a steep hillside. During that time, several of my friends and I started to wonder if we would ever reach the top. Sometimes, we had glimpses of a pinnacle of rock ahead or the high wall of a cliff.Other times, we could look back and see just how high we’d climbed.
We found rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, and bunch berries still blooming along the trail—up here, their spring doesn’t come until July.
Most of the time, though, we just walked—through trees, where walking was cool and easy; across a boulder field, where the sun shines hot and we pant and gasp and want to stop.
The last half-mile of trail zigzagged nearly straight uphill. We climbed through pine forest still so thick we couldn’t see the switchbacks above us, though we knew we were nearly at that top. Part of our group had raced on ahead, while another dropped behind. I stayed with a couple of friends, stopping occasionally to catch our breath and stare up through the trees, hoping to see the blue line of sky just above us.
Finally, when we thought we might never arrive, we came out onto a rocky shelf—the last stretch of path running along the top of the ridge. We wandered along it, counting the other mountains in the distance, beyond other pine ridges.
Further on, we found part of our group eating lunch in a pine thicket, where the tree trunks twisted around into low benches. The view, though, held us and drew us back. Before I reached the top, I had been ready to stop and sit down. Once there, I could not stop wandering out to different lookout points, trying to see more and other views of the blue-green hills around us.
Unfortunately, we had to start down again after about an hour. As soon as we left the top and started along the trail again, the view disappeared and we were once more trudging along with only occasional glimpses to remind us of how far we’d seen from the top.
Isn’t that how life goes?