Yesterday I had an opportunity to visit with an old friend that I had not seen in several months. It wasn’t their fault, they were always there with an open invitation but it seemed like every time I thought of going something else would always crop up.
The funny thing is, when we first met, I honestly didn’t care much for her. She is very old and while she has a timeless beauty about her she also has the directness that only an ancient one can pull off. At first I didn’t notice it, like most people when they first meet her I was entranced by her. She sucked me in using her inviting, almost serine, beauty only to end up pointing out my many short comings. I left vowing to never return, why would I knowing go back only to be ridiculed again? Even if she was old, did that give her the right to be so cruel? If Joie hadn’t intervened, urging me to go back I very well might not have ever visited her again. Thankfully, over time, I came to understand her more and then to develop a fondness and then a loving respect for her. It wasn’t a cruelness that she extended towards me, she treats every visitor the same. Her intention wasn’t to ridicule or make fun of me, it was to point out where I was weak to help me become strong. I now know that she is a hidden gem and that she truly is a friend.
When I had my heart issue over the summer my first thoughts were of Ladonna and the kids. Then there was dad, Lois and the rest of my family and friends. Once I knew I hadn’t had a heart attack I went back to see her once or twice but I wasn’t ready. She could see that I wasn’t and together we agreed that maybe it was best that I wait until I was stronger. When I decided to go yesterday I wondered if I had waited to long, would she still be there for me? Maybe she had changed or would be angry with me for staying away these last few months?
When I pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car I was instantly greeted with snow showers and a stiff wind, I would not have expected anything else. My friend, the Guest River Gorge, was still there, still waiting. I had last walked down her path a short way with Ladonna, a gentle introduction, but had not truly visited in a while. Now that I was there I was anxious, was I really up to this meeting?
At the start was that a subtle change I noticed? Her path seemed softer, the gravel deeper. Then I remembered the damage from last winter, rushing water from the melting snow had damaged the upper path. The forestry had repaired it over the summer and the new gravel was still softer, still not as hard packed as it had once been. Around the bend was the tunnel, a cool refuge during the summer but on cold winters days it is has a wonderful array of icicles from the drips overhead, truly one of her charms. On days like this it reminds me of the Wardrobe in the Narnia books, to the North side was shadows, cold and snow but at the South end the afternoon sun was filtering through the clouds and promised a measure of warmth.
The re-purposed trestle was next, carrying me across the Guest River and offering the first real view of the gorge with it’s rushing water and huge boulders. The trail felt firmer on the far end, harder packed… this was the friend I remembered. She really is beautiful in any season and during the winter there are even more views of the gorge and river. Time seemed irrelevant as we became reacquainted with each other and I passed the 1 mile marker, then the small bridge, the cliffs were next and then the 2 mile marker came. I felt as if I could go on forever and that thought jarred me back to reality.
You almost did it to me again I told her as I reluctantly turned to leave. That is her power, her trick, the way she sucks you in. The only entrance is the parking lot to the North and almost immediately you start a deceptively downward journey. At times you are aware of the drop but for most of the trail you only feel as if you are running with less effort than usual. I wasn’t ready for the full 1,500 foot, 5.4 mile climb out. I knew that if I had tried she would once again have the chance to show me my weakness. Soon I told her, soon we will try that dance, when I am stronger, when I am ready. She has been my proving ground before each half marathon, I know if she finds me strong enough then I am ready. But for yesterday it was just a quick visit, just to make sure she would help me yet again.
The trip out was a hard climb, she was reminding me how come I put so much faith in her but I relished every step. It was SO good to see her again, to spend this time in her eternal beauty. Almost as if she was answering that thought just before the trestle a deer came out of the mountain laurels, looked at me and bounded down to the river. Thank you my friend, I promise to visit again very soon, to spend more time and listen to your counsel.