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Tender to the touch, my left shin serves as a reminder of last week’s adventure My sister, her daughter, and one of my daughters took off on a girls’ trip to North Carolina, and after “doing Asheville” on Friday, we decided to make Chimney Rock State Park Saturday’s grand finale.
We cruised into town around 10 o’clock after oohing and ahing over the sights along Hwy 64. We wondered aloud how it would be to attend Bat Cave Baptist Church the next day, and that led to yet another discussion about how many different ways there are for people to live and love and play and worship. We heartily agreed that it was important, imperative in fact, to get out of Dodge once in a while to see more of the world than our own narrow corners of it.
Once in Chimney Rock, the park entrance was upon us before we had a chance to signal and turn in. No problem. We rode through town and took in the sights, and since Lake Lure was right down the road, we went there too. I wanted to have a look at the beach. There were no ocean waves or roaring surf, but there was a beach. Water too. And a lifeguard. The area was fenced in, off-limits to us, and people were lined up to plunk their money down.
We headed back to Chimney Rock, not turning again until we got to the park. I was surprised to learn the fee was only $13, and the woman selling tickets said the price had been reduced because the elevator to the top wasn’t working. No one said anything. Not a word.
“So we’ll have to walk up?“ I asked.
“Yes. Is that a problem?” she said.
The general consensus was that we had come this far and by golly, we were going to get to the chimney and touch the flagpole.
“Let’s do it, y’all,” I said.
You pays your money and you takes your chances.
Feeling overdressed and hot, we stopped at the restroom area and changed into lighter clothes and bought some water. I had learned from an earlier experience not to hike any distance on a hot day without H2O. We got back in the car and around and around the mountain we rode until we got to the parking lot.
We got out of car and looked up at the tall stone chimney. I had climbed this rock before, but it had been a beautiful fall day with brisk temperature. Now it was July. Truthfully, I think we all felt a bit of trepidation. Elizabeth had misgivings about walking in flip-flops, but since she had no extra shoes, it was wait on us at the gift shop or step forward. She started walking.The journey of 499 steps began with the first one. On we went, stopping to peer into a cave, look over the edge at the parking lot, or simply rest a minute. At one point, Elizabeth muttered to me, “This is the worst day of my life.” Lucky girl, I thought, understanding what she meant but knowing she could do it.
“You can do hard things,” I reminded her. No response. She just kept climbing in her flip-flops.
I took dozens of pictures and listened to the encouraging words of folks coming down. “It’s so worth it,” they all said. Some lied and said, “You’re almost there,” when in reality we had quite a way to go. The four of us made small talk and continued climbing—together.
At last we ascended the final twenty or so steps and walked on the rock itself. We laughed and shared “war stories” of the trek. We took selfies, and snapped photos of other people for them. There were so many people with us at the top that I had to carefully maneuver my way between them and the several big rocks. At one point, I got pushed (accidentally) and scraped my shin. Immediately, a goose egg puffed up, and a reddish purple contusion appeared. Ouch.
After relishing our accomplishment for a few minutes, we began our descent, reluctant to leave the mountain top but anxious to begin the next adventure. Going down was so much easier than going up, and we gleefully told the tired looking climbers that they had a treat in store. “Keep on climbing,” we said. “The view is so worth it.”
Today I’m aware of my tender shin and the memories it conjures up of a day four of us, united by blood and purpose, ascended Chimney Rock. We encouraged one another, swigged our water, kept putting one foot in front of the other, stopped for breathers, and reached the top—together. It’s easier that way.
About Chimney Rock, it’s an awesome place. I’ve been there several times in my life, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually went to the top of the rock. That day we rode the elevator, and later we walked a trail at Hickory Nut Gorge. The waterfall was beautiful, just like everything else around us.
Last week when we visited Chimney Rock again, I was determined to walk the steps to the top.
“You’re crazy,” my husband declared.
“Yes, I already know that. See you at the top,” I said. “And don’t worry. If I feel like I can’t make it, I’ll turn around and get on the elevator.” He shook his head, probably wondering at my sanity (or lack thereof) and walked away.
Folks, it was quite a workout. I could feel AND hear my heart beating. Instead of being deterred by it, I tried to think of how magnificent an organ the heart is and how fortunate I was that mine seemed to be working so well. I met several people along the way up, among them a couple of young couples that I passed (loved that!). Okay, to be honest, one of the couples stopped to take pictures of each other posing along the trail, so naturally that slowed them down. I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and they were appreciative of that. Hope they like the way the picture turned out.
Heart working overtime, I paused to take some gorgeous pictures of the trees and birds and trail itself. “A step at a time, Jayne. Just a step at a time. You can do it!” It’s amazing what proper pacing and a little positive self-talk can do. I also thought of something I learned from teaching Human Growth and Development: What most people in later adulthood say they regret are the things they did not do, not the things they did and failed at but the lost opportunities, the phone call never made, the hill never climbed, the trip never taken, the dance not danced, and the song unsung. When I’m in one of my children’s homes living out my last days (since none of them ever read my blog, it’s safe to say that), I won’t be saying, “If only….” It’ll be too late then to even get in the elevator at Chimney Rock, much less climb the stairway.
So I climbed to the top, and I was so happy to see the rest of my party and the beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. We hung around on the chimney taking pictures, relaxing, people watching, and exclaiming over the breathtaking views. Before descending the mountain, we visited the gift shop and the restroom, mainly so we could snap a couple of pictures of the murals there. Regardless of what direction we glanced, there was something majestic to see and remind us that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”
Before we got on the elevator (I succumbed to the not so subtle pressure of my sweet husband), we walked outside once again, and an employee of the park asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.
“That’s part of my job,” he assured us.
“Taking pictures?” I asked.
“Making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.
We did. And you will too. Put Chimney Rock on your “to do” list this year. Even if you don’t make the trip to the top, the town itself is charming, especially now that the river walk has been added. And don’t even get me started aabout the quaint gift shops, restaurants, and streetscape.