Saturday night, I climbed to the top of Hanging Rock (and several other peaks), turned off my head lamp and looked out on the lights of Mt. Airy, Pilot Mtn., King and Winston-Salem. Bathed in moonlight, the silhouette of the pine trees moved with the wind, and the stars shone bright and clear. I sat down on the rock and stared up at the night sky, felt the cold wind on my face and smiled. What a blessing to see such wonders. To have a strong, healthy body. To have friends who will climb mountains with me at midnight in the middle of January.
We climbed and ran and hiked (mostly hiked) several peaks for the first five hours of a long night and then headed back to the warmth of a crowded but cozy cabin for hot soup and warm bread and a spot in the corner with a warm sleeping bag. Crystal and Michelle got up an hour and half later and went out for three more peaks, but I stayed snuggled in for a while longer. Before dawn, I was up again, and we started up the mountain for sunrise.
We didn’t expect to see the actual sun. The wind had come in during the night, bringing with it heavy clouds, so seeing the first rays of morning were probably not in the cards. What we did get, when we opened the front door, was a fluffy snowfall, the first of the year. With our headlamps on, we began the trek through the snowy darkness to the top of the mountain. Halfway up, the sky lightened, and we cut our lamps off and enjoyed the silent woods. I’m not sure if there’s anything I enjoy as much as hiking or running in falling snow in the woods.
By the time we got to the top of Moore’s Knob, there was no view. From the lookout tower, the area looked like a huge grey abyss. There were eight of us on top. No one else was around. We saw things that morning that most other people, sleeping in their beds, did not. It was quiet and peaceful and a gift from God. If that won’t get you up in the morning, what else could?
As we made our way back down the mountain, eagerly anticipating hot coffee and Crystal’s breakfast casserole in the crock pot, we paused for a moment to take a group photo and catch a few snowflakes.
16 miles, 9 peaks, memories for a lifetime. Here’s to a new year of adventure.