Saturday, October 29, 2016.
This was supposed to be a short hike so I could return home in time for an evening party that involved spinning fires. The weather was awesome–upper 70’s with a chance to hit 80, and when you’re in the trees, it’s nice and warm since you get half-n-half of sun and shade. I was also extraordinarily jolly having discovered that this particular hike to Rattlesnake Lodge (via Bull Gap–Ox Creek road) was 16 minutes drive from my house. The shorter the drive the better, get more walking time!
On my way I was taken in by the trees on fire, blooming, blossoming but also dropping a part of themselves, a carpet of radiant leaves, a colorful spectacle everywhere I looked. It was in that moment of looking down that I saw a friend slithering through the texture of leaves, pausing to acknowledge my passing, and I taking a picture, saying, Hello. Peace. Be on your way.
I wandered where snakes go in these mountains when it gets very cold. Would I see a rattlesnake? After all, the trail was named after them. I was at the ruins of the Lodge in no time. Greeted the folks who were resting there and breathed in the freshness. I felt energized and decided to walk on. If I kept going on the Mountain-to-Sea trail, about seven to eight miles down and up the trail, I would end up on the other side of Craggy Gardens. I was fascinated how you could chance upon new and familiar trails from different directions. At some point I saw two trees that beckoned me to take a break. This time I had a hammock in my bag, so I tied the ends to the two trees, drank water, ate an apple and a cereal bar. With the soft and beautiful blue autumn sky in view, I closed my eyes and entered a state of unity that collapsed time. I travelled far and wide, yet also felt significantly in the here.
I must have dozed off which probably wasn’t a good idea. I had a sound that startled me and instantly remembered that I was in the hammock. I also remembered a conversation from the past about a bear burrito. The image was compelling; in that hammock I could easily become a bear burrito. I didn’t want my hammock to end up in the bear’s belly. So I got up, looked around and saw nothing. On my way back to Rattlesnake Lodge I did see a bear but it wasn’t near, and given how fast it was moving away, I could tell it wasn’t interested in me, which is a good thing.