But finally, on a cloudy day, not getting up as early as I would have liked but deeming an overcast day with temps in the 80’s as safe enough, Tucker and I packed up the truck and headed north.
The beginning of the Keown Falls trail is an eloquently graveled path with stone borders. I don’t imagine it felt great on Tucker’s feet, and I wished for an end of the man-made adornment to get back to Mother Nature’s flooring.
The view beyond the falls was the woods itself. It had no mountainous vista, but instead showed us the forest we were visiting.
I thanked her for the insight and made a decision. I could go left, 2.5 miles to the overlook, which probably wasn’t as steep, or go right one mile, and also catch the second overlook. I opted to go right.
I chose wisely.
The next overlook was indeed not on a map. We saw a little bit of color in the immediate plants surrounding us.
As for the view at this point in the hike, it was indeed still green as far as the eye could see.
We said hello, and then he said, “You hiked here?”
“Yup, sure did.” I can’t see how the level of sweat pouring off me could be excused in any other manner.
“You’re not from here, are you?”
Nope, clearly not.
Two dogs in the pickup truck started baying, and a woman in the front seat yelled at them. As I tried to tug Tucker along to the trailhead where the 2.5 mile trail that would complete the loop back to the Falls began, she stepped out.
“You hiked here?” she asked, exasperated. (I don’t think she had heard my answer over the dogs barking.) “How long of a hike is it?”
I told her it was about 2 miles up, and about 3 miles down.
She shook her head. “Maybe is my younger years.”
I started down the trail and she yelled after me, “You’re not afraid of bears, hiking alone?”
Well, no, not till you just said that. Thanks.
I shrugged. “No.”
Her husband, who was snapping pictures turned around and said, “I don’t imagine she’s afraid of much with him as her hiking partner.”
I smiled and said, “Yeah, but he’d probably try to be friends with the bear, and then I’d have a whole other problem.”
We wished each other well and I started down the trail, thinking of Mt. Mitchell where the same sort of encounter happened. Tucker and I had hiked a few beautiful miles to get there. Those who walked the 500 feet from the parking lot, seeing a disheveled woman and her panting dog, had to wonder how out of shape we were to not even be able to make it from the parking lot without extreme physical difficulty.
As soon as we were out of sight of the truck, the couple and their dogs, we came across this--far creepier than any bear in my opinion:
One one of our journeys slightly off the path to catch a glimpse of the pastures below, Tucker proudly announced, "Look! Fall!"
But that didn't detract from our walk in the woods. Instead of experiencing the glorious colors of Autumn, I was reminded of the subtle beauty in all woods year round.
Whoever thinks this earth is here only to be plundered by us because we are humans, has never taken a walk in the woods. Beauty exists here not because people will see it one day and enjoy it; it exists because Mother Nature is innately beautiful. The world isn't here for us to steal its elements, waste its resources, and wreak havoc on its delicate balance. It is a work of art we are to preserve, protect, and enjoy. You would never walk into an art gallery and knock over a sculpture to take a piece with you; you wouldn't dump the drink you don't feel like finishing all over the handmade woven fabric of a quilt; and you wouldn't rip a painting off the wall, stomp on it, and slice through the canvas.
Nature is art, the world her gallery. Around ever bend is a new piece to explore and experience. The way a leaf falls from the tree and lands upon a stone; the clouds caressing the tips of mountaintops as you look into the distance; the way the light plays on the forest floor, dancing with the shadows.
I had been hoping to visit during her spectacular Annual Autumn Exhibition, but we were a little early--or maybe in the wrong wing of her gallery. Tucker and I would continue searching for it, but in the meantime, we pay reverence to the art already on display.