Ends of the Earth

Poppa once told me: “You never have to be afraid…why embrace fear when you can grasp serenity instead. Be still, and know you are loved.” As I stand quietly amidst a thicket of vapor-strung pines, my grandfather’s sweet words serenade my ears once again. I perceive no movement across the saturated soil, and yet I can feel his gaze staring out at me somewhere through the fog. It’s as if the forest has soaked up his entire essence and departed it out as air. I recall the verses of Walt Whitman and, quite simply, I begin to smile.

Wolf Rock covered in Fog – 2/17/19

           The impressively carved face of Wolf Rock shakes me back to reality. Luminous clouds have descended to hug the quartzite shelf in a seemingly-perpetual embrace. Bracing gusts of mountain air now cut through my polyester layers and send shivers shooting down to my toes. I took off my backpack and rooted around for my down coat and extra fleece, knowing quite well I did not want to leave this space for some time. I recalled then how that blue North Face shell seemed quite odd in the backseat of my car as I was stuffing my pack full of granola, fruit, and energy bars a few hours ago. The three-mile descent to the Hanging Rock visitor center seemed too far a commute, so I settled into iciness and stared out into the unknown.

Winter’s icy grip – 2/17/19

            Hanging Rock is no neophyte to frosty conditions. As part of the Sauratown Mountains, the state park experiences ascensions anywhere from 1,700 feet to 2,500 feet across its 7000-acre enclosure. Given the nearly static 800-foot elevation of neighboring Stokes county, Hanging Rock encapsulates a monumental collection of varying habitats. From my frozen mountain perch on Wolf Rock, I could barely make out the lowland swamps that dot the inner valley and the clear pine-forests of the upper piedmont. The view splintered my concentration from the task of warming my stiffening hands.

Great banks of fog suddenly plunged down from the canopy of oak and hickory, abruptly swallowing any chance of seeing the world beyond the ten-meters in front of me. I took a sip of tea and began to listen to the fog, an attempt to distinguish whether or not this force could make a sound.  My whole body slowly filled with insuppressible energy, all thoughts of coldness departed, utterly and completely immersed with the fine folds of mist wrapping around me.

A passing shower sent droplets cascading onto my neck, dripping down my spine and causing my lips to chatter. Just then, I recalled the sign situated five meters to my right reading “Scenic Overlook”, a bolded arrow directing visitors to my current position. Without the appearance of stunning vistas and dramatic landscapes from behind the foggy veil, Wolf Rock would have likely remained unvisited for the entirety of that day. In that moment I did not care that the ‘scenic view’ was hidden from my eyes, for I could feel the power of the landscape without even seeing it. Even if her beauty is temporarily obscured, her influence shapes more than meets the eye. I closed my eyes and pressed my hands against the damp quartzite shelf, the accumulated water soaking into my skin as if I were a sponge. What I once believed separated me from this space now seemed to hold my hand, pulling me under and wrapping me tightly in an eternal blanket of serenity.

“There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *