Or how time flies when you haven’t been paying attention.
In the beginning – let’s just say some time in the last century – the Shining Rock Orienteering Society consisted of a group of middle-aged Gainesville flatlanders in hot pursuit of their lost youth.
Fine figures of men one and all. We were up for any challenge. At any time.
So long as there was time out for naps, caffeine and posing for heroic group photos.
And although over the years we hiked wide and far – New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington, Rocky Mountain National Park, endless segments of the Appalachian Trail – there was something about North Carolina’s Shining Rock Wilderness that drew us back again and again.
And not just because it was there.
Mostly it was because Shining Rock was the gateway to Cold Mountain. And we were determined to get to the top of that mountain of Civil War-era fictional fame.
Alas, we never made it. At least not from Shining Rock.
After four or five failed attempts over multiple years – mostly due to either bad weather or impossible terrain – we ended up taking a much shorter and less treacherous trail that started out at a Boy Scout camp way over on the other side of Cold Mountain.
But that is a heroic tale for another time.
Suffice it to say that we fought Shining Rock. And Shining Rock won.
Ah, but we always knew we would return to Shining Rock. Bowed but not broken.
On Wednesday, after many years, additional pounds and some thinning of both our hair and our ranks, we resolved to assault the Shining Rock wilderness area again.
Just for old times sake.
But only for a three mile up and three mile back walk down a rather rocky and easily negotiated memory lane.
Because, let’s face it, the days when we were capable of shouldering 40 pound backpacks and toughing out three days in the back country are passed.
Now we’re pretty much content to carry a water bottle, some energy bars and hopefully just enough energy to get to the Shining Rock Wilderness sign and then back down off the mountain before sun set on our frail constitutions.
The expedition leaders consisted of Ron and Buddy, charter members of the SROS and still formidable figures on their own right. (Especially Ron.)
In need of new recruits, we formally inducted Warren, Walt and Bruce into our ranks. No spring chickens they, but before we left the car we checked and determined that they still had pulses.
And so on the brisk morning with temps dipping into the 50s. We took a walk in the Sun. Because we still could.
And never mind that the youngest of us had just reached his 70th year.
We came. We saw. We did not get lost.
And we happened upon indications of a malevolent force.
Some sort of Sashhquash-type super being that, no doubt, was responsible for our earlier failures to reach Cold Mountain.
No doubt the creature lived in Graveyard Fields, just next door. Which explains a lot.
Suffice it to say that we dared Shining Rock Wilderness one more time. And we lived to tell about it.
Then we went to a very nice late lunch at The Salty Landing in Etowah. But that is an adventure for another telling.
The important thing is that the trail goes on forever for the Shining Rock Orienteering Society.
That is all for now.