A birthday does not mean I am another year older. I am, but that is beside the point. I celebrate the day of my birth because it began an amazing journey of wonderful people, laughter, adventures, love, happiness, and abundance. Along the way there have been not so wonderful people, tears, misadventures, disappointment, sorrow, and lack. But that, too, is beside the point. If I can learn and grow from the bad times, the good times are just that much better.
In the spirit of living every moment to the fullest, I went out exploring on my big day. I got in the car, decided on a direction, and started driving. Up a curvy mountain road, with foliage kissed with the first blush of Fall color, I saw an old country general store advertising great barbecue and live music. I wheeled into the parking lot, went inside, and sampled food, music, and ambience before continuing on. Good decision.
Back in the car, I remembered Linville Gorge as a place I wanted to explore and was informed by Siri that Linville Gorge has a last name – Wilderness. Now, a woman born without a sense of direction has no business wandering around a wilderness alone. I mentally rescheduled that adventure for when my son and his family can go with me and prevent me from living my last days eating wild berries and trying to recall trapping tips from the reality TV show Alone.
I reined in my spirit of adventure just a hair and decided to go to Linville Falls instead. With Google Maps to keep me on the right path, I ventured on. At the falls, I picked up a map and set off on a trail the attendant called “moderate.” It looked deceptively level. I huffed and puffed for what I figured was a couple of miles, stopping to regain my breath and slow my heart at every bench, log, or tree stump I came to. The trail was decidedly not level, but younger (and some older) people kept whizzing right by me, still able to talk and breathe at the same time.
At the top of one stretch, I came to a crossroads. The devil wasn’t there, but a sign was, and it informed me that my destination, Erwin View, was still 4 miles away. However, an overlook was only 500 feet away. Can we guess which I chose?
When I got closer to take a picture of the sign, however, I saw what, upon even closer inspection, was a decimal point with the white paint worn away. My chosen destination was only a quarter of a mile away, not four. My overtaxed heart could manage that, I thought, so I set off. I did manage it and it was beautiful. The moderate path didn’t get me as close to the falls as the tougher trails would have, but I spent a good long while enjoying the cool air and the sight and sound of the falls across the river.
The return trip was much easier and my heart and lungs were suitably grateful. I got back to my car feeling very proud of myself for pushing on and figured I had gotten some miles in, probably four or five. I opened my map again and looked at the Erwin View trail –1.7 miles! Round trip.
Heading back homeward for an evening where I was to be treated to grilled steaks, Caesar salad, and homemade chocolate cake – all while wearing a birthday tiara –I reflected on the day. It was kind of a life lesson. Great rewards usually come with great challenges, but just making an effort can yield a beautiful payoff. Another revelation was that I need hiking boots and one of those trekking poles. Maybe a compass, too. Next birthday, I’m taking on the wilderness!