The morning sun already high in the clear sky has me soaking in the warmth. I watch my playful daughter splashing in the lake and quickly making friends with everyone. A gentle breeze washes down the mountain, across the lake, cooling me as I lay on the beach.
Suddenly, the mountain seems ominous. Standing in clear splendor and beauty, why would I think it is ominous? I look up the sides with no hint of haze. Sharp green shades showing distinct tree species. The top is capped with a bright blue sky and then recall the last time I was on this peak.
In early 2007, Caleb was nearly eleven years old, the minimum age to join the Boy Scouts. Since he had been in Cub Scouts for years, and since I was going also, his new troop allowed him to go on a backpacking trip with them before he was eleven. My ecstatic son prepared for weeks as this was not a simple hike. The Blood Mountain Appalachian Trail via Slaughter Creek Trail has an 1863 foot elevation climb in under four miles. The fairly easy first half makes the last half of the ascent brutal for a boy and his old man.
My pack weighed in at fifty-five pounds, about average for a multiple-day trip. We were only going overnight. Caleb fared better at forty-five pounds, though I worried because this was half his own weight. In retrospect, I should have worried about myself because he never lagged behind those in the lead while I struggled to keep up with the back of the line.
I felt like we would never reach the summit the first day, but we did. It was glorious! We reveled on the enormous stone and walked around the shelter. We met a few AT hikers who had traversed its full 2190 mile length.
We hiked down a short way to a small clearing and set up camp for the night. With the temperature ten degrees below freezing, I slept very little. After breakfast, we finished the descent to Lake Winfield Scott where we parked the vehicles. This may be a simple hike for many, but for us, it was a rite of passage. Caleb proved he could do what he set his mind to do.
I cast my gaze back down the side of the mountain to the fun, swimming children, and my beautiful daughter. On this perfect day, with so much happiness, joy, and beauty all around, it was difficult to see her through my tears.
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