The Hiking Story
Recently on my trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I tackled three hiking trails, each more strenuous than the last. Two, were along the Appalachian Trail (which has always been on my Bucket List!) and the third was to see the largest waterfall in the Shenandoah National Park, (at least four tiers of falls) Doyle’s Falls.
The most important one was the last. I am a water baby at heart and while I loved my stay in the mountains, the water always calls me back. So, if I was really going to do this hiking thing, I had to have a really great reward to work towards.
I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was thirteen. I was taken off all physical activity except walking and swimming. They told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to walk by the time I was twenty-six. They said they could maybe prolong my mobility by getting regular injections of gold in various joints. Not having any of that.
All that to say… I shouldn’t be climbing mountains. But I am. I probably shouldn’t be gallivanting across the country either, but I am!
I am in pain, every single day. Moving around, standing still. When I go to sleep at night and especially when I put my feet to the floor the next morning. And if we should ever meet, I hope you won’t be able to see any of that. I didn’t tell you this to invoke pity. I want you to celebrate my victories with me.
And while many will think that it was “just a six- eight mile hike” round trip, it’s all the more a victory because I shouldn’t have even attempted it. And six miles on a flat surface sure feels different than six miles going up and down those trials, climbing up tree roots and over boulders and even the helpful “steps” that were put in after a few hours were just… torture! Lol
It wasn’t too bad going down, I made the mistake of thinking this wasn’t going to be that big of a deal! Then I found out I was on the wrong path! A nice pair of hikers escorted be back up to the top and pointed me in the right direction.
Back down the now correct path, I was still feeling pretty confident. Meera, my trusty (and old) Great Dane was feeling a false confidence as well! She lead the way.
We made a second wrong turn along the way. The ladies told me to veer right, veer right. Well, at the intersection, I veered a little too right and missed the correct turn-off. Thus draining any extra energy I might have had stored away. We went down, down, down then up, up up only to find ourselves at a paved road that had a sign pointing BACK the direction we had just come to Doyle’s Falls. What? How could we have possibly missed a waterfall that goes on for more than a mile!!
Quitting was not an option. Dying however crossed my mind… I’d pick a nice, pretty patch along the route and thought, that would be a nice place to die… but no, we kept going. Meera and I turned back around and hiked down, down, down then up, up then over, over to find the correct path (confirmed by another hiker) to lead us down, down, down… down.
It was a beautiful path and I tried to stay focused on all of the beauty like the changing leaves, the sun peaking through the foliage to splash light along the way; looking up and seeing the blue, blue sky or the outline of the mountains in the distance. It really was an amazing place to die…. Uh, I mean… to explore.
And then…finally… there it was. In all its grace and splendor. It was… quite …the let down. We arrived at the first tier and thought… this is it? (I am speaking for Meera, of course, but I’m pretty sure that’s what was going through her lil brain.) This little trickle of water spilling over these massive boulders… this is what we hiked so far for?
It was only the first tier. We moved on to the second tier. It was more intricate. It jagged and spilled over a smooth path, pooled for a moment before continuing down.
We gingerly made our way to the third tier. It was so simple and so elegant. Meera and I were completely wore out so we just sat and enjoyed the beauty and the gentle sounds.
In the Spring, this waterfall is said to be mighty and powerful with water pouring forcefully over the ledges with fierceness; completely covering the rock framing underneath. But today, it was just… elegant. Beautiful in its simplicity. It’s music was so peaceful and we rested happily just getting lost in it.
It felt like we were part of this exclusive minority of people that got to appreciate this beautiful piece of God’s art hidden away in the depths of this mountain. It was like having a back-stage pass to something amazing that few people got the privilege of witnessing but you couldn’t just buy your way in, you had to earn it. There was a price to be paid…. (oh brother, was there!) but it was worth it!
We could only do the top three tiers because my body was just not having any more “going down” know that “going up” was going to have to be right behind it. So we just sat and enjoyed the third tier for about thirty minutes before we started to head back up. For just a brief moment I thought about going to the other level because I caught a glimpse of the waterfall and really wanted to see it… but I am so glad we didn’t!
The looooong way to the top was excruciating! There might have been some whining from me… even some from the dog and it took twice as long to reach the top as it did for others. There was a lot of praying, and a lot of rest stops! And, there was a lot of self-coaching going on. “Okay, you can rest, but then were going to take a few more steps…. Just a few more steps…” “See? They can do it… Are you going to let those twenty-somethings show you up?” “Yes?’ “NO!” … yeah… it was tough!
But we did it! I was so happy to see my truck parked at the top parking lot! My legs were shaking, my lungs were burning, my mouth was dry… but we did it.
My body was so mad at me for the next three days. Meera and I were a pretty pathetic site, but we did it. And now that I know I CAN do it, I’ll be better prepared for next time. And yes, there will be a next time.