8 Miles

Uh yeah…not whatcha think. Musically powerful tune but that ain’t it.
This weekend Dana suggested we hike to Raven Cliff Falls. Considering her level of endurance and my recent back issues that seemed an easy, reasonable hike. 2 miles, hour and a half up, hour and a half back. Dana caught a nasty flu virus and was out of commission but Jo, Brandon and I hit the trail early Sunday morning. Weather was amazing as it has been all week. Only moments after setting foot to the trail I was in my element. Even with the boys, there was ample peace and virtual solitude. It still amazes me that when the noise is eliminated how conscious I become of God’s presence. It was a powerful time interrupted only sporadically by, “Look at that view” or “Check out that boulder.” Segue. A great old tree stuck it’s branch out over the path about seven feet in the air. Yep, time for a stop. After exploring a side trail Jo was in the tree in a flash. That’s my boy. Once back on the trail Brandon somehow ended up in the lead position again which gave us a spectacularly entertaining view. He couldn’t seem to walk more than a few paces with out an “SAT” (slip and trip). We kept track. By day’s end I had accrued 6, Jo 8, I think and Brandon 18. No kidding. Just over an hour in we reached the viewing platform for Raven Cliff Falls. We were so far away that you couldn’t really grasp the height and power of this 410′ waterfall. Dismal Trail which passes through The Dismal (“a mature hardwood forest” as my trail book describes it) was just around the corner so we decided to take it to its end, turn around and come back. The boys were all for it so we were off. We ran, slipped and slid down the steep incline for a half hour or so. Once at the bottom we decided the path with more adventure and certainly no more exertion would be to complete what we had started of the Raven Cliff Falls Loop. So upon the advice of a fellow hiker we took off. We encountered several more views of the falls and even heard it nearby but never really got a better view. We did encounter a man-made cable crossing over a shallow stream which was a lot of fun. One cable was low for walking on and the other slightly above it to hold on to. About an hour later we crossed a suspension bridge over a gorge which was cool but not near as much fun as what we had just crossed. Next came the strenuous part of the trail. It went on forever. We had only brought enough water and snacks for the short trail and on this section we annihilated most of what we brought. As we started approaching the end of the loop we encountered a lot of other people on the trail, most with dogs, headed toward the falls. (Love the dogs. I gotta get Scooby out there soon.) Well, once back at Caesars Head we ran into the guy who had given Jo and I a shuttle after our Rim of the Gap hike. We spent a few minutes catching up and he told us to check out the overlook for the hawk migration. 340 had been spotted the day before but we saw nary a bird. We hopped back in the car and headed down the mountain with voracious appetites, eyes desperately searching for my barbecue guy. We weren’t disappointed. He was there. This roadside vendor (right on 276) of Turkish-spanish descent (Tim Lara, I think) has some of the best smoked pork I’ve ever had…ever, and as you well know I’m a barbecue snob. Today wasn’t quite what it usually is due to the fact that his wood supplier brought him pecan rather than hickory so it had a much milder flavor, but it was still really good. (He assured me next time I came through he’d be back up to par.) What a great ending to our longest hike to date…8.3 miles. Put it into perspective, though: Average hiker on the AT does anywhere from 12 – 22 miles…every day. Jennifer Pharr Davis averaged 38 miles per day doing 63 miles on her next to last day which was in the mountains of Georgia! Crazy. Don’t think I’ll be hitting 63 miles a day anytime soon (Not even sure I want to!) but hopefully we’ll build our endurance do some longer hikes. Can’t wait! Look out AT, we’re coming!

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