Here’s a stock photo of Looking Glass Rock:
The trail itself was a meandering, upward hike of 1700 feet elevation through the woods. Autumn was taking its final breaths, so the even though we were deep in the woods, we could see out to the rolling Blue Mountains beyond.
Tucker took a “this is what we’ll look like” moment about half way up the mountain to prepare himself for an even steeper rock.
“Was that the right way?” I asked.
They weren’t sure. They had turned around before reaching anywhere that seemed like a giant vertical rock face.
A couple behind me paused and we both contemplated whether or not to take the extra steps to find out for ourselves. Tucker and I had been walking for over two hours and risen over 1600 feet in three miles. We weren’t going to walk away without at least trying to find the endzone.
Tucker and I descended the trail that looked more like a slightly muddy old riverbed. The center was a deep gash in the earth two feet deep. I walked along the edges and Tucker ducked in and out depending on what terrain he felt like trying. We were walking for about ten minutes when someone came up.
“Is Looking Glass Rock down there?” I asked.
“Oh yeah!” they said, breathless from the upward climb. “Just keep going!”
Tucker and I did, and were rewarded with the ground flattening out. Like Alice emerging from the the woods, Tucker and I came across a small opening in the bushes, and walked through, expecting to come out in Wonderland.
Unlike Tucker who stood solid and proud, his elbows turned out, on the granite slope with no fear of falling but only harboring disappointment for not being able to run right up the edge, the coonhound up the rock behind me was quaking from snout to tail, hiding behind her young owner’s leg, trying to get as far up into the bushes as possible.
“Your dog looks like how I feel,” I told him.
He laughed. “She’s a scaredy-cat. That’s why we brought here—to get her to be not so scared.”
He dragged the poor girl down the slope a little (nowhere near the edge) and held her between his legs to brace her. He smiled, looking toward his hiking partner to take a photo of them. I saw the whale eyes… I noted the tail tucked far up underneath her… I smelled the fear… I was astonished that the little girl didn’t just turn to the man, bite him in the nuts, and run up into the hills. Dogs go beyond their own emotions for the sake of their people—and dial it back when we need them to. I felt blessed to have such an understanding companion, unlike the coonhound whose companion wasn’t respecting her limitations.
Other people walked about the rock with ease, took pictures, and stood on the edge. I know Tucker was disappointed and perhaps I was also a little disappointed in myself, but as I’ve gotten older, my aversion to risk as increased. I’m not sure if it’s age or just the fact that I have another being relying on my existence to sustain his life.
We paused for a moment to explore a trail that went nowhere at the top before heading back down through the woods. I gave thanks for having such an adventurous dog.
As we drove back through the wooded lanes, the last echoes of Autumn fading from the treetops, I wished upon a falling leaf to return to the Blueridge Mountains soon. Although it’s all one big planet, some places feel more like home than others. For Tucker and me, Asheville holds that title. Although there is a familiarity about it, I think we could spend years here and still find new places to explore. It’s like falling in love with someone: you love them for who they are, but the joy of that love is that no matter how well you think you know them, they can still surprise you.
I hope someday I surprise Tucker (and myself) by being able to fearlessly walk up to the cliff’s edge. I look forward to returning to Asheville to explore, and in the meantime take joy in every new discovery Tucker and I make—not only in the places we visit, but in each other.